Bulldogs headed back to state tournament for third year

Third time just might be the charm for Thorndale as it will make its third straight trip to the UIL state basketball tournament this weekend.

The No. 1 Thorndale Bulldogs (33-3), and Class 2A Region IV champion, will face No. 7 and defending state champion Muenster (18-5), Region II champion, in the state semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at San Antonio’s Alamodome. The 8:30 a.m. semifinal will see Region III winner and No. 4 Shelbyville (32-4) play No. 10 and Region 1 winner Stinnett West Texas (34-2). Thorndale and Muenster were both at the state tourney last season.  This is Stinnett's first ever tourney appearance and the first for Shelbyville in 34 years.

The Bulldogs won their third straight region championship on Saturday with a 46-41 victory over district foe Mumford at New Braunfels Canyon High School.

The regional final marked the third time this season that Thorndale had faced the Mustangs, with the Bulldogs winning all three of the contests.  It was the second season in a row that those same teams met for the region title.

Thorndale head coach John Kovar said to make it to the state tournament for the third time is a great accomplishment for the Bulldog players.

"I am extremely proud of this group of kids.  They have accomplished so much the last three years," Coach Kovar said.  "They are great kids that all have a common goal and play unselfish basketball to try to achieve that goal."

Thorndale was the undefeated champion of District 25-2A. This was the fourth straight regional final appearance for Thorndale.  It is the sixth state tournament appearance for the Bulldogs [2006 (where the state semifinals were held the night after the regional finals at the regional tournament sight), 2007, 2008, 2016, 2017, 2018].

The last time the Bulldogs won a state title, the seniors on this year’s squad were in the third grade.  A championship trophy would be the third of its kind for the Thorndale boys' program.

Thorndale has won 19 games in a row, with its last loss coming to Lipan.

The Bulldogs have been ranked No. 1 in the statewide Class 2A poll for 10 straight weeks.

Thorndale has lost just three times this season.  The first two were in the Salado tournament--on Nov. 30 to Jarrell (63-46) and Dec. 2 to Salado (58-46). Jarrell was ranked No. 1 in 3A at the time of the game. The other was on Dec. 28 to Lipan (52-45) in the Tenaha tournament.  Lipan is the No. 1 ranked team in Class 1A.

Stinnett was winner of 1-2A.  This is the first ever state tourney appearance in school history for the Comanches.

Shelbyville was runner up in 22-2A, behind Tenaha.  Thorndale defeated Shelbyville 67-57 on Dec. 27 at the Tenaha tournament.  This marks the third state tournament appearance for the Dragons.  They were also there in 1982 and 1984.

Muenster, champion of 11-2A, has been at the state tournament four times (2014, 2016, 2017 2018) and the last two season made it as far as the state title game.  Last season Muenster won the state title over Clarendon, who defeated Thorndale 59-35 in the semifinals.  In 2016, Canadian ousted Thorndale 47-46 in the semifinals and defeated Muenster 56-46 in the state title game.

It time for the Bulldogs to be sure Muenster does not make it to the title game for a third straight year and Coach Kovar knows it will be a battle of two great squads.

"Muenster is a team that is always good. They are the defending champs and they are big.  They play great defense and are fundamentally sound," he said.

This year’s state tourney appearance marks the 10th anniversary since Thorndale won its last of back-to-back boys' basketball titles under the late coach Jeff Lieberman.

This is the fourth year that the UIL has moved the state basketball tournament from its longtime home at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center.  “The Drum,” as it is known, was the site where the Bulldogs won its back-to-back titles.   

All of the other three state semifinalists have school colors of red and white, so Bulldog fans will stand out in the crowd.

The two winners of Friday's semifinal games will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday back at the Alamodome for the state title. It is the third game on the docket for that day.

Coach Kovar knows his team stands a good chance against the competition and that the Bulldogs will leave it all on the court.

"We hope that the third time is the charm.  We are going to go out there and give it the best we can and hopefully that is enough to get it done."



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