HUNTSVILLE -- Friday's Class 4A Region III semifinal playoff game between Tatum and Houston Sterling followed the same pattern all night.

Sterling pulled ahead, the Eagles rallied back and then Sterling would take off again.

If the big game at Sam Houston State's Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum lasted a bit longer, it could have been an entirely different outcome. But Sterling was able to enjoy the fruits of earlier labor and ended Tatum's season, 70-62.

"We had talked about it beforehand," Tatum head coach Lane Boxell said. "They go on runs. It was going to be about limiting those runs and how you reacted after. Actually, I thought our kids reacted well."

Sterling (29-5) -- the No. 2 team state-wide in 4A -- battled through 10 lead changes before getting a hold on the game with a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. Even after that, however, the Eagles pushed the powerhouse to the brink.

Tatum (27-11) trailed by 12 points at its worst and clawed back to make it a six-point with 3:55 to play.

Sterling got a little bit of breathing room down the stretch with a minor, 8-3 run to pull ahead 67-59 with 53 seconds to go.

Senior Eagles guard Martin Williams was not going down without a fight though. He gave the team one final realistic chance with a long 3-point shot to make it a two-possession game with 40.2 seconds left.

The situation got more serious for Sterling. With the Eagles in foul mode, it missed the front end of a two-shot free throw situation to keep the door open.

Tatum's next shot was off the mark, but Williams got a steal and put up a good looking 3-point attempt that just didn't go down. Sterling recovered, Tatum fouled and the lead went back up to three possessions with 22 seconds to play on one made free throw.

A final offensive possession ended with a turnover. Sterling got a free throw out of it.

Williams scored a team best 20 points and recorded four steals in his last game.

"It's just incredible the way that he fights and the effort that he gives," Boxell said. "He was always wanting to play in that next game. The will that he had tonight was incredible. He hit so many big shots in big games for us. I think it was just because he was fighting so hard for us.

"He hit some big shots tonight. We make a last three with 25 seconds left, we pull within three. That one didn't fall, but he had a great game and a great career."

The Region III tournament championship game will pit Sterling against No. 10 Silsbee today at 1:30 p.m. A berth to next week's state tournament in San Antonio is on the line.

It's the end of an era for Tatum.

Nine seniors will graduate in May after playing roles within the program toward a Class 2A regional tournament appearance in 2013, the Class 2A state championship game last season and an appearance in a third consecutive regional tournament. The latest milestone at a higher classification.

Chaston Brooks scored nine points to finish third in team scoring. Three other seniors combined for an additional 15 points.

Junior guard Jalan Horne joined Williams in double digit scoring with 10 points.

"We have a lot of kids on varsity and have six good ones coming back," Boxell said. "But we had a heavy senior class and do lose a lot. We're going to take some on this and before too long we'll get back to it. We're going to take a little time off next week."

Sterling and Tatum traded the lead through the first half. For a two-minute stretch midway through the first quarter, each basket changed the lead.

The Eagles trailed 19-14 at the end of the first quarter but took a 33-32 lead to the locker room on a late Brooks free throw.

Tatum extended the lead with a bucket from Smith on its first possession of the second half and then gave up the 10-0 run.

Sterling's two leading scorers, Avery Ragland and Curtlon Wesley with 23 and 21 points respectively, got into serious foul trouble late in the third quarter and were forced to sit until after the start of the final period. That allowed Tatum to lay the groundwork for a comeback.

"They put us in a hole, but I thought my kids fought hard to get out of the hole," Boxell said. "But the run was just a little too deep to overcome."

Houston Sterling 70, Tatum 62

Boys Class 4A Region III Semifinal
At Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum, Huntsville

Tatum       14     19    10    19    --    62
Sterling     19     13    20    18    --    70
TATUM (27-11) -- Martin Williams 21; Jalan Horne 10; Chaston Brooks 9; Da'Calen Hicks 7; Jakoby Lee 7; Devonte Alexander 4; Kyshaun Smith 4.
STERLING (29-5) -- Avery Ragland 23; Joshua Young 21; Curtlon Wesley 14; Corey Burks 5; Reginald Mitchell 5; Robert McKinney 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Tatum: Williams (3), Lee. Sterling: Ragland (4).