At the beginning of the season back in November, San Augustine basketball T-shirts went on sale. And a very lofty goal was represented on the back.

"We thought we had the type of team that would have a chance (to reach the state tournament)," said San Augustine coach Tory Barnes. "When we made T-shirts at the beginning of the year, on the back of the T-shirts the Frank Erwin Center was in the middle of it, and it said somebody's going to make it. Why not us? We felt like we had just as good as shot as anybody else."

Four months later, the San Augustine Wolves are at the state tournament for just the second time in school history -- the first since 1973.

The eighth-ranked Wolves (23-6) face No. 2 Mumford (38-0) at 10 a.m. Thursday in one Class A Division I state semifinal from the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Special Events Center.

All the extra attention paid to a state-tournament qualifier has created a whirlwind of activity in San Augustine, a community of a little less than 2,500, over the last couple of days.

"I would have never thought it would be this involved," Barnes said. "Coaching my team has probably been the last thing on the agenda. But the community is very excited about it and the school is very excited about it."

San Augustine reached this point by knocking out a pair of Top 10 teams at the Region III tournament last weekend in Tyler. The Wolves defeated No. 9 Kerens, 81-60, in the regional semifinals before taking care of third-ranked Grapeland, 92-77, last Saturday for the regional title.

"The biggest thing is we're beginning to click at the right time, all our top players and playing an another level," Barnes said. "And in the playoffs, when you get this far, the team that always wins it is the hottest team. And right now, we're pretty hot."

In both regional wins last weekend, San Augustine roared to big first-half leads and allowed the opponents to get within striking distance before putting them away with strong fourth-quarter performances.

"Once you get this far in the playoffs, every team is good," Barnes said. "And every team is going to end up making a run, and we tell our kids to expect it. And when they make their run, we have to counter that with our own run."

San Augustine is one of the highest scoring teams in the area, averaging 76.8 points per game. But Barnes said it's the Wolves' defense that sets the tone.

"We have high pressure on defense, and our defense leads into our offense," he said. "I think we try to get into you defensively for 32 minutes. We want to force turnovers and turn those turnovers into easy baskets. And when you're making your 3-pointers, it makes you that much better."

Mumford's resume speaks for itself. In addition to its spotless record, the Mustangs are in Austin for the second consecutive year. Mumford lost to Clarksville in the state title game in 2012.

"The first time I saw them was last year the state tournament," Barnes said. "They're very disciplined, they like to run it up and down the court; they're not a team that likes to slow it down. So it should be a very exciting ballgame."

The winner of Thursday's semifinal will face either El Paso Harmony Science Academy (26-3) or No. 1 Dallas Triple A Academy (26-5) at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for the 1A Division I championship.

SAN AUGUSTINE WOLVES

Head Coach: Tory Barnes
2012-13 Record: 23-6

Starting lineup

  • G Bobby Tanner, 6-0, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.9 apg)
  • G Al Horton, 5-8, Sr. (4.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg)
  • G JaCourtney Thomas, 5-8, Sr. (11.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.2 apg)
  • F Dezmond Randle, 6-2, Jr. (12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
  • F Jarvis Smith, 6-3, Jr. (11.4 ppg, 12.6 rpg)

 

Road to Austin

  • Area: def. Joaquin, 80-71
  • Regional quarterfinal: def. New Summerfield, 69-57
  • Regional semifinal: def. Kerens, 81-60
  • Regional championship: def. Grapeland, 92-77