Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 H.S. Basketball Playoffs: Wall vs. Hallettsville Girls State Semifinal

Well, I find myself back in Austin once again to cover the girls state basketball tournament. The Wall High School Lady Hawks have once again found themselves in the thick of things and vying for a championship. The last time I was in Austin at the girls state tournament was back in 2010 and, oddly enough, it was Wall I was covering. This is the sixth time the Lady Hawks have found themselves playing for a state title. They just never seem to make that final leap of greatness to be crowned Queens of the Court.

It was a bit of an early start than usual with the tip-off at 8:30am. Other than to get up to go to school, I don't know of any teenager that gets up before noon if they can help it. But I guess if it were a big day for me as it was for these girls, I wouldn't be complaining to much. Wall was going to play Hallettsville for a chance to earn a birth to the final game of the season. Hallettsville has never been to the state tournament before so this team was a bit of an unknown. Last year they didn't even make the playoffs and now, just a year later, they are in the state tournament.

At the beginning of the game it seemed as if the sleepiness had not yet worn off for the Lady Hawks as they found themselves down 7-0 about a minute and half into the first quarter. But as the first half went on, Wall found their footing and gradually gained ground on Hallettsville. An 8-0 run in the second quarter boosted the morale of the Lady Hawks led by the outstanding play of sisters Maddi and Bobbi Chitsey. The Lady Hawks headed into the locker room with a 30-26 lead. Now all they had to was play keep-away in the second half and not get into foul trouble.

In the second half Wall kept the lead out of reach for Hallettsville. It also helped that three Hallettsville players fouled out of the game and they had to replenish their ranks with bench players. Wall was sent to the foul line multiple times and, in my opinion, really helped seal the deal. The Lady Hawks made 27 of 38 shots from the foul line. That's 71%! As Standard-Times sports reporter Carlos Silva and I were driving into Austin yesterday afternoon I made a prediction that Wall would win by 12 points. Turns out I wasn't far off as Wall cruised to a 59-44 win to advance to the Class 2A state championship. The Lady Hawks will play Brock for the title at 1:30pm at the Frank Erwin Center. This is going to be a tough game for the Lady Hawks as Brock is the five-time defending state champions. It was Brock that beat Wall in the state title game 38-33 back 2010. Should be fun to cover regardless of the outcome.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 H.S. Basketball Playoffs: Wall vs. Alpine Boys Bi-District Game

In a shift from shooting rodeo performances, here's a little high school playoff action for you. I headed north to Big Spring last Monday with sports reporter Charles Bryce to cover the Wall High School boys team play Alpine in a Class 2A bi-district game at Howard College. I'd not covered too many Wall games over the course of the regular season so I was going in blind as far as knowing just how good Wall was going to be. The boys got off to a late start for their basketball season because the football team was making a deep run in the playoffs which bleeds into the basketball season. And if you grew up in a small town then you know that most of the kids involved in sports play in just about every sport the school has to offer. Their record going into Monday night's game was 14-0 so they couldn't be all that bad.

Once the game started it was pretty clear that Wall was the dominate team. Within the first minute of the first quarter Wall led 8-0 and never looked back. Wall has a suffocating full-court press that causes teams to make mistakes.  The Hawks led 41-19 at the half. After a lackluster third quarter in which they only scored 10 points, the Hawks answered back with a 22-point fourth quarter to seal the 75-44 win. Senior Tre Chitsey led the Hawks with 23 points despite an injured thumb on his non-shooting hand. Brady Clark added eight points, and Brent Matschek, Jacob Reid and Lane Braden all scored seven.

There wasn't a lot drama involved with the game other than the fact that some of the Wall players got into some foul trouble, but other than that it was pretty cut and dry. Wall advances to take on Eastland in the next round of the playoffs.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo: 4th Performance

Okay, I'll just say it: Covering the San Angelo Stock Show & Rodeo is just plain fun. I can't tell you how lucky we are that this event is located in our little town. Well, it's not so little, but we are conveniently located in the middle of nowhere West Texas. And that middle of nowhere location is at a crossroads for several major cities so everybody comes through here at least once if they spend any time in our area. San Angelo is 180 miles from Lubbock, 130 miles from Midland and Odessa, 90 miles from Abilene, 220 miles from San Antonio and 200 miles from Austin. Add in all the little towns in between and San Angelo is a major hub for this area of the state. And during the rodeo, all points converge on us. Like I said, we're very lucky.

Sunday was another rodeo day for me, it was the fourth performance of twelve. Like I said in my previous post, the first performance is always a trial run for me and also for the rodeo production staff. It amazes me how fast the rodeo staff can take a good performance and turn it around into a great performance a mere two days later. Mad props to this year's rodeo staff, they're doing a great job.

The opening act of this year's rodeo involves a bunch of pyrotechnics and fog machines which can be a little troublesome when it comes time to start shooting the first event. The fog lingers for quite a while making it difficult to get images in focus. Don't get me wrong, it's cool as all get out as part of the opening act, but for the first few events all of the images come out looking a bit hazy. It's not something I can really complain about though, it's all part of the challenge of shooting the event.

The rest of the rodeo went about as smoothly as you could ask for and I think I was able to come away a few nice shots. Of course it's hard not to when you're photographing rodeo. It's a pretty dynamic and exciting event. And it's too bad we have wait another week before the next performance because I feel like we're getting a good handle on capturing some good moments. I have to give a shout out to my fellow photographers, Andrew Mitchell and Jennifer Rios, who are also covering the rodeo. It's an insanely busy time for us here at paper and we always end up working way more hours than normal. It can get a little tiring, but after it's all said and done, pretty rewarding too.