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When you make it to state for the first time in school history, itâ€™s a big deal, even if the trip doesnâ€™t end on a happy note. So while their dream of a state champion-ship was ended by Saltillo in the semifinals, it was still a very good year for the High-land girls basketball team.
Under the guidance of head coach Shea Baucom, the Lady Hornets went 31-5 in becoming the first Nolan County basketball team in four years to go to Austin.
Their journey was the top Nolan County sports story of the 2012-13 school year.
The Lady Hornets, led by the Allen sisters, Sierra and Hannah, made an impressive run to the state tourn-ey. They won the District 13-A, D-II title with a 10-0 record, then began the play-offs with wins over Zephyr and Water Valley to reach the Region II-A, D-II tour-nament in Abilene.
Highland dominated the II-A field during its two-day run. After crushing Baird 55-37 in the regional semifinals for their 30th win, the Lady Hornets came back to rout Garden City 47-29 in the Region II-A final and advance to the state tourn-nament in Austin.
Highland lost to No. 1 Saltillo, 41-19, in the semi-finals. But it could be just the start of even better things for the team, which returns four starters including the Allens, plus forward Beth Richburg, sophomore guard Madison Moseley and top reserve Sydny Helbert. Sierra Allen, a junior post, was named the stateâ€™s co-player of the year, and Hannah was second team all-state as a freshman.
Three other area basketball teams made it to the playoffs. Also making it into the postseason this year were the Sweet-water girls â€” who under new head coach Al Miller ended an eight-year drought by winning a third-place tiebreaker with Big Spring and then beat Fort Stockton in bi-district before losing in the area playoffs to Lubbock Cooper.
The areaâ€™s other playoff teams this year were the Roscoe girls, who finished second to Highland in Dis-trict 13-A with a 7-3 record and lost a close bi-district contest to Sterling City; and the Highland boys, who were the 13-A runnerups as well and lost to Robert Lee in their bi-district playoff.
The recently completed state track meet also ranks among the top local sports stories of the 2012-13 year.
Highland had three of the five Nolan County athletes who won state medals, with Roscoe and Blackwell also claiming state medals.
Blackwellâ€™s Jayden Jones was the only gold medalist, winning the Class 1A, D-II boys pole vault with a leap of 13-6. Jesus Leanos of Roscoe was third in the boys 3200 (10:27.70).
Richburg competed at state in three events â€” the girls 100- and 300-meter hurdles and the 1600 relay â€” and won a second-place silver medal in the 100 hur-dles (16.31) while placing fourth in the 300 hurdles.
Highlandâ€™s other two UIL state medalists at this yearâ€™s meet were Sheldon Hall, who placed third in the boys 800-meter run (2:01.30), and Michael Hyde, who joined Jones on the medal stand by placing third in the boys pole vault with a leap of 12-6.
Also, we have to mention the Sweetwater girls soft-ball team who under coach Tony Heredia had a truly historic achievement â€” the very first playoff win since the program began in 1996. The Lady Mustangs defeated Pecos 11-1 to capture the first-ever bi-district title in school history before losing to Pampa the next week.
There is still one playoff team still active, of course. Sweetwaterâ€™s baseball team, after sharing the District 4-3A championship with Wylie, has won both its bi-district playoff with Fabens and its area playoff with Pampa. The Mustangs will now be facing Andrews in the regional quarterfinals.
While the football season saw just one area team get to the playoffs, it had some good moments as well.
It took a dramatic last-second field goal in the final regular-season game for the Blackwell Hornets to get into the playoffs under first-year coach Clint Lowry. The field goal gave the Hornets a 58-54 win over Panther Creek and earned them a bi-district date with Loraine, where they lost 49-22.
Sweetwater, under first-year coach Shane Mobley, was fun to watch but fell just short in its playoff bid. The Mustangs were 4-6 overall and they finished 2-3 in district, with a heartbreaking 39-35 loss to Monahans in the final home game likely keeping Sweetwater from getting to the postseason.