LONGVIEW -- Maybe it was the fatigue factor after playing in a fourth game in about 24 hours. Maybe it was an upgrade in competition.

Whatever the reason, it took Center more than a half of its Gold Bracket quarterfinal game to reel in and defeat Conroe Lifestyle Christian, 62-50, Thursday at the Leroy Romines Memorial Basketball Tournament in Longview.

But the Roughriders are into the semifinals and make a great case as East Texas' best hope to upset two powerful Houston area teams when tournament play resumes and concludes today inside Lobo Coliseum.

"That first half, I don't know what it was," Center coach Hiram Harrison said as his assistants scrambled to cancel dinner reservations so the team could travel home immediately for rest. "We sat around for three and a half hours and that probably did something, but we can't underestimate teams like we did. Lifestyle Christian was a pretty good team."

Center guard Austin Craig scored eight points in Wednesday's tournament quarterfinal game in Longview.

Harrison's day started well enough. The Roughriders (18-3), ranked 15th in the most recent Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Class 4A poll, won Pool C and the higher of two seeds into the tournament's championship bracket with a 59-47 win against Class 6A competitor John Tyler.

Both Center and John Tyler began Thursday undefeated within the tournament setting.

John Tyler subsequently gambled away its berth into the championship bracket on a coin toss with Longview -- the team it was supposed to meet in the quarterfinal round of competition. Longview is a District 11-6A opponent and neither team was keen on giving the other side relevant film for a game that has no bearing toward the state playoffs.

Hallsville fell to Houston Pro-Vision Academy later in the day and Sulphur Springs got taken out by Houston Sam Houston in the nightcap to round out local teams.

That leaves the Roughriders and Longview as the final local teams in the championship bracket. It would be a stretch to say either team will be favored in their respective semifinal games.

Pro-Vision, Center's opponent today at 2:30 p.m., is a charter school that was established by former Philadelphia Eagles safety Roynell Young. It's in the same corner as Deion Sanders' now-defunct Prime Prep Academy -- not a member of a strict governing athletic body and capable of drawing students from a wide urban area.

Sam Houston, Longview's upcoming opponent, is the highest-ranked Class 6A team in the state and one of Maxpreps.com's top 25 teams nationally.

"We'll play Pro-Vision," Harrison said. "We've just got to play. If we play like we did today, it's not going to be a contest. But I know we can play better, and I know we will play better because we play up to our competition. So, we're looking forward to it. We've just got to get some rest."

Lifestyle Christian (17-6) was another non-UIL opponent Center crossed. It was a private school governed by TAPPS, and anyone can attend it as long as they're willing to travel, but the difference between it and Pro-Vision was clear to the naked eye.

Lifestyle Christian's bench was much shorter than Pro-Vision's will be in the semifinal game. Two players accounted for more than half of its 50 points.

The Roughriders had a much better athlete in guard Octavius Evans. He's a college wide receiver prospect with offers from Oklahoma State and Texas Tech among others.

Center also had forward Kyle Parks, who might be a last-minute quarterback or all-around athlete pickup for a college football program.

Factor in forward Kaleb Parks, who scored 10 points to finish second behind Evans' 19, Harrison's squad had a high-low approach to wear down Lifestyle Christian's seven-man rotation.

Lifestyle Christian point guard Derrick Herrick was the biggest issue to overcome. He scored three layups in the first half and added five points on free throws to take his side back to the locker room with a 28-27 lead.

Herrick continued to wow the crowd in the second half with three more scoring drives and a successful 3-pointer.

Center had Evans though and progressively turned the tide from uncomfortable to OK and then on to successful. Evans upped the pressure in the second half at the top of the key and began to choke Herrick's passing capabilities out of the game.

Herrick had 20 points and eight assists in total, but he only managed two assists in the second half. Both went to power forward Jacob Dozier in a 10-point effort.

Evans recorded two steals, blocked a shot and played a big hand in forcing nine total turnovers in the final 16 minutes. Those turnovers helped Kyle Parks and fellow guard Austin Craig more than double their point totals from the first half.

Kaleb Parks managed to reach double digits down low with two second-half baskets as Evans himself put up nine points of his own down the backstretch.

"He's special," Harrison said of Evans. "He's just a leader on that team and makes sure everyone is in the right spots, but all the kids that I have work hard."

Center's biggest test -- or tests -- of the week are still in front of it.

Pro-Vision is far more diversified than the other four teams the Roughriders have encountered. Sam Houston is the tournament's most consistently organized team. Longview brings good size and discipline to the table if it manages to pull its own upset.

Today is a big opportunity for the smallest city still alive in the tournament's championship competition.

"We just want to play hard and represent Center," Harrison said. "Representing the community of Center in a good way is the priority. Come out victorious if we can, but just play hard."

Center forward Kyle Parks tries to get a shot over Lifestyle Christian's Helios Mayer in a battle of big men.

Center 62, Conroe Lifestyle Christian 50

Leroy Romines Memorial Tournament
At Longview High School

Center                9      18      20    15     --    62
Lifestyle             14     14        9    13      --   50
Center (18-3) -- Octavius Evans 19, Kaleb Parks 10, Ja'dus Johnson 9, Austin Craig 8, Jamarh Johnson 6, Kyle Parks 6, Reggie Daniels 2, Jaterious Evans 2.
Lifestyle Christian (17-6) -- Derrick Herrick 20, Jacob Dozier 10, Zach Heaton 9, Eddy Clinton 6, Khalil Williams 3, Helios Mayer 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Center: Octavius Evans (4), Ja'dus Johnson. Lifestyle Christian: Zach Heaton (3), Derrick Herrick, Khalil Williams.

Hallsville's Chris Timberlake drives the lane against Pro-Vision's Juan Hood. Pro-Vision committed 13 fouls in the first half of Wednesday's tournament game.

 

Pro-Vision Wins Heated Contest With Hallsville

LONGVIEW -- Houston Pro-Vision coach Gilbert Good is the biggest personality in Longview for the tournament.

He had quick zingers to throw back at Hallsville head coach Rusty Walker and ran a color commentary for no one in particular through most of game play. He's an entertaining showman in control of a fast and loose Pro-Vision team that thwarted a major Hallsville run toward a 72-56 win in the quarterfinal round of Gold Bracket competition.

"I thought our kids listened and tried to execute smart things against Pro-Vision," Walker said after his team exited the tournament with a 2-2 record. "We were outmanned physically. You're not often going to play against (players that are) 6-(foot)-10, 6-7, 6-9 in the same game. I thought our kids really played within ourselves.

"Some things went our way and some things didn't, but I thought we got better. At the end of the day, when you're a coach, that's what you're trying to do in tournament play. You're trying to get better."

The two teams got off to a rocky start with Pro-Vision (21-1) trying to inflict its will on Hallsville (16-5).

Pro-Vision cruised out to the lead on a dunk by Jacob Shields seven seconds into the contest, but fouling was its undoing. Up 13-7 midway through the first quarter, the Houston team jumped from one foul to three in a matter of seconds.

One of Pro-Vision's players collided into Hallsville's Matt Mowery on a 3-point attempt and picked up a technical with choice words for the official. The Bobcats, however, were only able to capitalize on two of five free throws in succession.

That was the trend, though. Pro-Vision fouled 13 times in the half and allowed Hallsville to work back from a 25-9 deficit at its worst to manageable 33-29 score at halftime.

Chris Timberlake scored a basket early in the third period to get the Bobcats within a point only to give up a 15-5 run moments later.

Hallsville got back into a rhythm, but the damage was done and Pro-Vision went back to stalling its offense at midcourt. Without a shot clock in Texas high school basketball, it had played around with four corners in the first half to disrupt the game's pace.

The Bobcats didn't take the bait either time. There was some positive energy along the sideline that they weren't going to give into the gimmick.

Despite the outcome, Hallsville only has one loss to an East Texas team.

"We're 16-5 on the season," Walker said. "Our losses have all come against really good teams. One of those being Mount Pleasant in our own league. Another loss was to a really good private school in Lubbock, Trinity Christian, a very good team, in the Decatur tournament. We lost to Denton Ryan, which is perennially a pretty good team.

"We're proud of our guys right now. We've got to get reorganized for district and we've got to get healthy."

Pro-Vision forward dunks for his team's first points in its win against Hallsville.

Houston Pro-Vision 72, Hallsville 56

Leroy Romines Memorial Tournament
At Longview High School

Hallsville                15      14      8     9     --    62
Pro-Vision             25      8      26    13      --   50
Hallsville (16-5) -- Blaine Parker 17, Matt Mowery 15, Jeremy Swalley 8, Kameron Fitzpatrick 6, Rowdy Smith 5, Chris Timberlake 4, Isiah Rodgers 1.
Pro-Vision (21-1) -- Efe Odiege 20, Akiem Daschner 17, Jacob Shields 17, Darreus Brown 7, Juan Hood 6, Shaun Coleman 3, Cameron Durr 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Hallsville: Matt Mowery (2)Blain Parker (2), Jeremy Swalley (2), Rowdy Smith. Pro-Vision: Jacob Shields (3), Darreus Brown, Juan Hood.

 

Sam Houston Needs Four Quarters To Escape Sulphur Springs

LONGVIEW -- Sam Houston coach Ralph Barreras turned back to the media table in the game's final seconds to learn more about the team he had finally disposed.

Sulphur Springs of Class 5A, he noted, as if he will keep an eye out for them later this season.

The Wildcats owned a lead after the first quarter and were down just three points to the top-ranked Class 6A team in the state at the end of the third period before falling, 66-50.

Sulphur Springs (10-3) gave Sam Houston (24-0) its closest game of the tournament and was just the second 5A team this season to have a fighter's chance after 24 minutes of play.

Keaston Willis scored two 3-pointers and Ke'ontae Dunn added another trey to help the Wildcats off to a 13-4 opening run. Sam Houston clawed back to within five at the end of the first quarter as guard Kendric Davis began working toward a game-best 30 points.

Sam Houston had a 32-23 lead at the break, but Sulphur Springs started the second half on fire from beyond the arc. Three more 3-point shots and a 3-point play made it a 37-all game with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

The Wildcats were outscored 29-13 from that point. Sam Houston's Jacob Wiley and Henry Hampton reaching double digits along the way.

Longview will face Sam Houston today at 1 p.m. in the tournament's semifinal round.

 

Houston Sam Houston 66, Sulphur Springs 50

Leroy Romines Memorial Tournament
At Longview High School

Sulphur Springs          17      6      20     7     --    50
Sam Houston             12     21      14    20    --   66
Sulphur Springs (10-5) -- Victor Iwukafor 17, Michael Jefferson 10, Keaston Willis 9, Bryson Lynn 7, Ke'ontae Dunn 4, Dane Rutherford 3.
Sam Houston (24-0) -- Kendric Davis 30, Jacob Wiley 14, Henry Hampton 10, Marion Jackson 7, Torron Mingo 3, Gabriel Gonzales 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Sulphur Springs: Michael Jefferson (2), Bryson Lynn (2), Keaston Willis (2). Sam Houston: Henry Hampton (2), Torron Mingo.