In Texas High School sports, there are just those programs.
Aledo and Katy football, Jack Yates basketball, The Woodlands cross country and then there is Canyon girls' basketball.
Hardin-Jefferson and superstar Ashlon Jackson (27 points) took the Canyon Lady Eagles to the brink of the Class 4A state title game but… Canyon did Canyon things.
Sometimes history is stacked against you.
Canyon (pop. 13,303) is a sleepy suburb of Amarillo – home of West Texas A&M University and the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Small-town America.
But their calling card is really girls' basketball. The Lady Eagles won their 20th state title in program history Thursday, 56-55, in a back-and-forth slugfest of talented teams.
So, let's get to the history lesson… It was all started by Bob Schneider, who coached the girls' team and won five state titles dating back to 1969. He laid the foundation before leaving for the college game and local West Texas A&M, where his legend continued to grow.
His son Brandon, a Canyon alum, continued the legacy and coaches the Kansas University women's team. Candi Whitaker was a legendary hooper at Canyon and played for Texas Tech. She was the head coach for the Red Raiders for six years before taking over the Missouri Western women's program to date.
Ok, worm hole entered with Canyon girls' basketball lore, but you have to know the background, right?
The legend Joe Lombard then really got it rolling, winning 13 state titles at Canyon. Heck, the gym is named after him -- Joe Lombard Gymnasium -- and they never lose there. He retired last year and passed the baton to… none-other-than his son Tate Lombard.
Less than a year later, young Tate hoisted his first state title with the Lady Eagles inside the Alamodome.
Class 4A Canyon wins 20th State Girls 🏀 Title@Canyon1Eagle 56@HJladyhawks 55 pic.twitter.com/ZEwrqrLKh7
— vypehouston (@vypehouston) March 11, 2021
So, down four points with 1:58 left in the State Title game with Duke-commit Jackson lighting it up for Hardin-Jefferson… Canyon did Canyon.
"I think it gives your team confidence when our coaches are poised and don't get to high or low," Lombard said. "Just make the next decision for the team and not get too emotional."
It seems like they've been there before... about 19 times.
So, when Kenadee Winfrey and Zoey McBroom hit back-to-back CLUTCH three-pointers to win a nail-biter, it was no surprise.
It was the Canyon mystique. The West Texas winds always seem to blow their way… it's not luck, it's more legend.
"We've grown up in this community as little girls wanting to play for Canyon basketball," title game MVP Chloe Callahan said. "It's the dream when you live out here."
Well, the Wild West Texas town did it again... and they might just be getting started.
Ashlon Jackson is the total package.
At 6-foot, the combo-guard can rebound, push the tempo, shoot the three, and sees the entire court to distribute. She's a student of the game and in the classroom. Jackson has a smile and personality as big as her game.
She's a mismatch at the high school level playing for state-power Hardin Jefferson, where she hopes to lead the Hawks to a UIL State Title.
In January, the Top 25 National Recruit as ranked by ESPN, committed to Duke. From the little town of Sour Lake, Texas to the epicenter of basketball.
"Honestly, I love the coaching staff," she said.
What's not to love as coach Kara Larson has taken over the Duke program after working as an assistant for the Boston Celtics, winning a WNBA Title, and being in three Final Fours at the University of Tennessee.
"You can't go wrong with Duke, right?" Jackson said. "It's tops in the country in sports and academics."
Jackson is currently leading her Hawks as they are undefeated and in the second round of the postseason. HJ fell in the state title game a year ago and has two state titles dating back to 1986 and 1989.
She's trying to leave her own legacy at the Southeast Texas school, however.
"I'm honestly trying to be great," she laughed. "I want to influence as many people as I can. I want to encourage young girls to try and do whatever comes to mind.
"Looking 10 years from now, I'd like to play some pro basketball and just be successful," she said.
She's well on her way.
Hardin Jefferson faces El Campo in the next round of the postseason as the Hawks are on a mission to close the deal with a state title.
HF is led by Jackson but has tremendous complementary parts in Molly Beavers, Rylee Wirth, and Kendall Sneed.