TYLER -- After a promising start to the season, the John Tyler Lions entered Tuesday night's District 16-5A home opener having dropped four of its previous five games.

In danger of beginning league play in an 0-2 hole, the Lions put everything together in a 67-38 destruction of Whitehouse in front of what was a spirited crowd early on at the Lions Den.

But thanks to a dominant first half, which saw the Lions (14-7, 1-1) build a 19-point lead, several fans made their ways to the exits after halftime.

John Tyler's Bryson Smith goes up for a shot during the Lions' 67-38 win over Whitehouse on Tuesday night at the Lions Den in Tyler. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

"Me and (current Whitehouse coach and former Jacksonville coach Brent Kelley), we've been having battles ever since I ended up taking this job," said John Tyler coach Cedeno Clark. "It's huge for us because … we went to Nacogdoches (in the district opener) and we took an 'L.'"

Clark added that while his team struggled at the Killeen Tournament last week, he saw that his team might be headed in the right direction.

"I think we got back to some of our good defensive principles," Clark said. "We played some quality teams down there, a lot of bigs. We want to hang our hat on good solid defense, and I think we did that tonight. It's still a work in progress, but we're pushing forward in the right direction."

The Lions' pressure defense gave Whitehouse (10-11, 0-2) fits all night long. John Tyler finished with 18 steals as a team, the majority of which led to points at the other end.

"It's just active hands and moving feet," Clark said of his team's defense, which held Whitehouse to just 11 made field goals. "As long as you've got active feet and active hands, you're going to be good defensively. Our communication is still not where I want it, but that's something we're going to work on and try to get better at it."

John Tyler sophomore guard Bryson Smith, a starting wide receiver on the football team, which reached the state semifinal round of the playoffs last month, came off the bench and led the Lions with 14 points to go along with two rebounds, four assists and four steals.

"As I told him coming out of football, it's going to take him a little while (to get going)," Clark said of Smith. "He's a very smart kid and he prides himself in playing good solid defense. It's starting to show, the athleticism that he has."

Patrick Williams added 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and six steals in the win. Nine other John Tyler players found the scoring column on the night.

Whitehouse's Javier Neal drives for a layup during the Wildcats' 67-38 loss to John Tyler on Tuesday night at the Lions Den in Tyler. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Most of Whitehouse's offense came from sophomore Ryan Walls, who knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Freshman guard Javier Neal added seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in defeat.

Walls' second 3-pointer of the game gave Whitehouse an early 10-5 lead, but John Tyler closed the first quarter on a 20-4 run for a 25-14 lead and never looked back.

"It all started on the defensive end because we were getting steals at the top," Clark said. "And the good thing about that was we were leaking the ball out in transition, which is what I said I wanted us to do to keep from having to call so many sets. When we're doing that defensively, and then we can get easy buckets, it makes it a lot easier for us."

Walls tried the keep Whitehouse in it with another 3-pointer that cut the Wildcats' deficit to 28-19 midway through the period, but John Tyler ended the half on an 11-0 run to head into halftime with a 38-19 lead.

Whitehouse never got closer than 15 points in the second half.

Both teams are back in action at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Whitehouse hosts Lufkin, while John Tyler travels to Corsicana.

John Tyler's Duntayviun Gross (11) deflects a pass from Whitehouse's Logan Gonter during the Lions' 67-38 win Tuesday night the Lions Den in Tyler. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler 67, Whitehouse 38

District 16-5A Boys Basketball
At Lions Den, Tyler

Whitehouse          14      5    11      8    --    38
John Tyler            25    13    13    16    --    67
WHITEHOUSE (10-11, 0-2) -- Ryan Walls, 14; Javier Neal, 7; Isiah Clark, 4; Collin Bullard, 2; Colby Duhon, 2; Dominique Hollie, 2; Landry Mayo, 2; Michael Sanders, 2; Trent Williams, 2; Ashton Melton, 1.
JOHN TYLER (14-7, 1-1) -- Bryson Smith, 14; Patrick Williams, 11; Martese Christian, 9; Ja'Khari Lewis, 7; Tavian Teal, 6; Rodney Bendy, 4; J'Michael Jasper, 4; Isaac Warren, 4; Jacob Owens-Bush, 3; Guquay Miller, 3; Duntayviun Gross, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Whitehouse: Walls (4). John Tyler: Teal (2), Christian, Lewis.