Polo did a decent job of hanging with Eastland on Friday night. Watching warmups, I didn't think that would be possible.
I leaned over to my social media coordinator for the night, my wife Kayla, and told said, "Look at the Eastland players. They're huge."
Her reply: "Yeah, they're a lot taller."
"Maybe a little, but that's not what I meant," I said. "They're friggin' ripped."
The Cougars, with their team-wide buzzcuts and exceptional fitness, looked like a dozen soldiers assembled, put in basketball uniforms and given orders to seek and destroy.
Feeling right at home in his close crop was Ty Hartman. He and his fellow Cougars buzzed their domes the last time they won a regional when he was a freshman, 3 years ago. Perhaps reintroducing a little dash of magic was necessary to overcome an ailment.
Before the season began, Eastland coach Tony Dunlap, played down expectations of his senior leader. After all, Hartman had knee surgery right after the baseball season.
Hartman spent a lot of time after the game hugging friends and family with one arm, the regional plaque firmly in the clutches of his other hand. He'd earned it. So much for that bad wheel which, logic would dictate, would make him a far less effective player as the game wears on. Hartman scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half.
What makes the Cougars so deadly is that Hartman will never have to be the guy. A different hand can get hot any night. Maybe it was the buzzcuts, but there was a certain well-oiled-machine feel to that ballclub.
I was impressed. Like, bring me along for the ride to state impressed.