Defending State Champion White Oak Headed Back to Austin After 66-47 Regional Final Victory Over Tatum [VIDEO]
NACOGDOCHES -- Round 3 wound up being an early knockout.
Defending Class 2A state champion White Oak narrowly beat third-ranked Tatum twice during District 17-2A play, but the No. 2 Roughnecks left little doubt Saturday. Behind senior point guard Kris Anderson's 29 points and five assists, White Oak built a 29-point third-quarter lead en route to a 66-47 Region III championship victory at SFA's William R. Johnson Coliseum.
White Oak (35-1) plays in next week's UIL state tournament at the University of Texas' Erwin Center in Austin. No. 4 Idalou, No. 5 Brock, and No. 17 Winnie East Chambers will join the Roughnecks, who should discover their opponent Sunday for Friday morning's state semifinals.
White Oak beat Tatum (31-10) by a combined six points in victories on Jan. 9 and Feb. 1, including a 63-62 win at Tatum on senior forward Levi Yancy's buzzer-beating tip-in. On Saturday, White Oak scored the game's first 12 points and led 17-8 after one quarter. That lead grew to 33-14 by halftime and 49-20 with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
Anderson penetrated at will. He hit six of his first nine shots and scored 16 first-half points. He finished 8-for-17 from the field and 13-for-17 from the free-throw line.
"With the pressure they put on, I just knew I could get by them," Anderson said. "We ran spread the whole game. I just knew I could create."
Tatum's high-pressure defense, a trademark of the Eagles' program, might have hurt their chances at containing Anderson as much as it helped.
"They put so much pressure on you, you almost have to just attack the basket, and (Anderson) is pretty good at that," said White Oak coach Ron Boyett. "We were able to spread them out a little bit and he made some shots. When they helped, he kicked it to (perimeter shooters), and we've got some guys that can shoot. It's pretty hard to guard when it's like that. Doesn't always work that way, but fortunately it did tonight."
Anderson's performance combined with a stifling White Oak defense that held Tatum to 24 percent first-half shooting. Tatum finished at 35.6 percent (21-for-59) and made only 2 of 20 three-point attempts.
White Oak held Tatum senior guard Javolick Garrett to a 1-for-6 start and junior gunner Robbie Rockwell to an 0-for-9 start. Garrett had big games in second- and third-round wins against Kountze, while Rockwell hit a combined 18 three-pointers and scored 72 points in first- and fourth-round wins vs. Hawkins and Jarrell.
On top of White Oak's defensive effort, Rockwell twisted his right ankle in the first quarter and played the remainder of the game with it heavily wrapped and with a noticeable limp. Garrett heated up in the second half to finish 10-for-23 with a team-high 22 points and five rebounds.
"We weren't laughing, but we're sitting there going, 'That ain't the kind of start we want,'" said Tatum coach Brett Carr of Rockwell's early injury. "We struggled, but part of our struggle was we just took some poor-selected shots at the beginning. Then they got the lead and it made it harder on us. We were really laboring to get points.
"(White Oak) did a great job. They came to play. They bested us in three games. There's no question they deserve it. The right team's going to Austin. We were really disappointed (because) it seemed like we let two games slip away. That game didn't slip away. That game they went and got. When you get to the regional final, you've gotta go get it. If you don't go get it, it ain't gonna happen. I thought we settled for jump shots. We just really didn't follow our game plan."
Boyett said the Roughnecks had a quick turnaround facing them to prepare for defending the athletic Eagles, but that his team responded.
"We had a plan that we put in place and went over it this morning," Boyett said. "The group of kids we have, they listen and pay attention, and you tell them something to do and they go out there and do it. For the most part we executed it the way we planned to. They probably didn't shoot the ball as well as they could have, but I think we did have a lot to do with it, and I thought we did a good job on the boards for the most part."
White Oak senior guard Skylar Sutton scored the game's first eight points. He hit 4 of 8 shots -- including 3-for-5 three-point shooting -- to finish with 13 points, while junior guard Slade Sutton added 10 points on 2-for-4 three-point shooting and 4-for-4 free-throw shooting.
Junior forward Hayden Nichols joined Yancy to lead White Oak's inside presence, as usual. Yancy scored only four points, but grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked three shots. Nichols had seven points and seven rebounds. White Oak won the rebounding battle 36-27.
Rockwell, who scored six points, hit his final two shots, including a fourth-quarter three-pointer, during Tatum's final gasp, which cut the deficit to 60-43 with 3:56 remaining. Then White Oak's defense once again clamped down. Tatum scored four points the rest of the way, including a bucket with eight seconds left, while Anderson and Slade Sutton made 6 of 8 free-throw attempts to repel the Eagles' final push.
Tatum senior forward Cole Hughes had six points, five rebounds, and three steals.
Carr, a White Oak graduate who led Tatum to the 2011 2A state championship game, said Anderson rose to the challenge.
"I've gotta give Kris Anderson some credit because in every game we told our kids he's gotta beat us, and he beat us," Carr said. "He went and beat us today. You've gotta give him a lot of credit."
Carr praised his team for continuing to compete despite the big deficit.
"I challenged them (at halftime). That wasn't a representation of who they are," Carr said. "Those are some tough kids in there, some great kids. That's my home, Tatum, Texas. I'm proud of them and love them. You just feel really bad for them, but I'm proud of them. They had a great year."
Class 2A Region III
No. 2 White Oak 66, No. 3 Tatum 47
SFA's WIlliam R. Johnson Coliseum, Nacogdoches
White Oak -- 17 16 16 17 -- 66
Tatum -- 8 6 17 16 -- 47
White Oak (35-1) -- Kris Anderson 29, Skylar Sutton 11, Slade Sutton 10, Hayden Nichols 7, Levi Yancy 4, Tanner Sharp 2, Josh Benson 1.
Tatum (31-10) -- Javolick Garrett 22, Cole Hughes 6, Robbie Rockwell 6, Andrew Stoker 4, Klifton Willis 4, Casey Carr 3, Jahee Johnson 2.