TYLER -- John Tyler capped a special non-district season Thursday with a 53-49 victory against Tatum squad in the 2015 Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic championship game at UT Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center.

The Lady Lions' regional dominance had been noted. The smaller Lady Eagles might be a significant postseason player, too.

Tatum, ranked ninth in the latest Texas Girls Coaches Association's Class 4A poll, almost completely rallied from a 17-point deficit and forced John Tyler, No. 3 in Class 5A, to win the game at the free throw line with three seconds remaining.

"We quit playing everything," Lady Lions head coach Mike Smith said. "We quit playing defense, we couldn't get any steals. They started making their shots and we couldn't make any shots. We weren't making free throws. Fouls weren't going our way. It was perfect for them to come back. They did a good job doing it. Fortunately, we sucked it up at the end.

"But you kind of like that in a championship game. After the games we've played, this was really good for us. I knew Tatum was going to be good. It could have been different, but this is the fourth game in three games. You never know what's going to happen."

Lady Lions wing Ashtyn Beal goes up for a 3-point shot against Tatum's Ro'Nisha Simpson-Byrdsong and Alexus Freeney in Thursday's tournament title game.

Tatum (17-2), which had not led since the 4:18 mark of the second quarter, took a 30-second timeout midway through the third quarter after being outscored 10-5 through the early minutes of the period. Things got worse instead of better.

John Tyler (19-2) put up six straight points through the next 1:43 for a 45-28 advantage before Lady Eagles head coach Patricia Nelson used her first full timeout.

Then the magic started. A gassed team outworked East Texas' best early season hope for a big school state championship nearly the rest of the way.

Sophomore BriAnna Mitchell got it started with a humble layup at the 1:43 mark of the third quarter. About a minute later, Alexis Freeney drove in for two points to make it a 45-32 game entering the final eight minutes.

The Lady Eagles went on a 15-4 run through the next six minutes to make the score 49-47 in favor of John Tyler.

The finish just wasn't there. Tatum closed the game shooting 1-for-5 in the final 1:21 and three fouls to give came back to bite the team in the same span.

Once the Lady Eagles put the John Tyler in the bonus with 29.5 seconds left in a 51-47 game, the Lady Lions missed the front end of two one-and-one situations. However, that burned clock. Tatum had to push the ball back up the court.

Diamond Sammons pulled her squad back within two points with three seconds to play, but the Lady Lions' Destani Whitehead knocked down both of her free throw attempts at the other end of the floor.

"I think it was a great tournament," Nelson said. "We really enjoyed the atmosphere. The thing that we gained from this game is that last year they beat us by 20. This year, we're in the game with a chance to win the game. With us moving up from 2A to 4A in the last two years, I think that kind of made a difference. They're bigger, stronger and faster. We battled back. And that's what you want from your team heading into district in two weeks."

Nelson's team rode three lead changes to an 11-10 advantage after one period to play. The lead shifted three more times before John Tyler claimed it permanently in the next frame.

Mitchell guided Tatum with 16 points. Sammons also broke double digits with 11 points off the bench.

Whitehead, a sophomore who won the tournament's Most Valuable Player award during the postgame ceremony, put up a game-best 21 points. Junior Ashtyn Beal scored 13 points.

Tatum shot 8-for-16 from the line. John Tyler went 12-for-16.

"We played Tatum the game before the championship last season," Whitehead said. "They were pretty good last year, and their best player graduated."

The Lady Eagles will close their non-district season Tuesday with a road game at Diboll.

John Tyler, which already is 1-0 in District 16-5A, resumes league competition Tuesday.

"We're ready," Smith said. "We'll practice on Monday, have school on Tuesday and then hop on a bus and drive down to Whitehouse and try to get after it."

Tatum's Ro'Nishia Simpson-Byrdsong goes up two against John Tyler's Alyssa Mayfield.

John Tyler 53, Tatum 49

2015 Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic Championship Game
At UT-Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center

Tatum           11     12    9     17    --    53
John Tyler     10     19  16     8    --     49
TATUM (17-2) -- BriAnna Mitchell 16, Diamond Sammons 11, Serena Gipson 8, Destiny Hicks 6, Alexus Freeney 4, Ro'Nishia Simpson-Byrdsong 4.
JOHN TYLER (19-2) -- Destanie Whitehead 21, Ashtyn Beal 13, Daz Johnson 7, Alyssa Mayfield 6, Kaleigh Hackett 4, Shakendra Tilley 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Tatum: Gipson. John Tyler: Whitehead (2), Beal.

 

2015 Macy Chenevert Patriot Holiday Classic

Tuesday-Thursday
At Bishop Gorman's Haddad Gym + UT-Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center

TUESDAY'S GAMES

  • Game 1 -- Jacksonville 48, West Rusk 43
  • Game 2 -- Kilgore 49, Daingerfield 16
  • Game 3 -- Tyler Grace Community 54, Winona 46
  • Game 4 -- Tatum 63, Dallas Triple A Academy 21
  • Game 5 -- John Tyler 57, Atlanta 28
  • Game 6 -- Dallas Thunder 52, Bishop Gorman 6
  • Game 7 -- Gilmer 60, Whitehouse 25
  • Game 8 -- Tyler All Saints 53, Mineola 33

WEDNESDAY'S GAMES

  • Game 9 -- West Rusk 67, Daingerfield 30
  • Game 10 -- Winona 48, Dallas Triple A Academy 20
  • Game 11 -- Atlanta 57, Bishop Gorman 10
  • Game 12 -- Whitehouse 32, Mineola 31
  • Game 13 -- Kilgore 45, Jacksonville 31
  • Game 14 -- Tatum 54, Tyler Grace Community 47
  • Game 15 -- John Tyler 68, Dallas Thunder 16
  • Game 16 -- Gilmer 72, Tyler All Saints 20

THURSDAY'S GAMES

Consolation Bracket
  • Semifinal -- Winona 60, West Rusk 53 (OT)
  • Semifinal -- Atlanta def. Whitehouse
  • Consolation Title Game -- Atlanta 27, Winona 23
Championship Bracket
  • Semifinal  -- Tatum 50, Kilgore 28
  • Semifinal -- John Tyler 78, Gilmer 59
  • Championship Title Game -- John Tyler 53, Tatum 49

 

All-Tournament Team

  • Destani Whitehead, John Tyler (MVP)
  • BriAnna Mitchell, Tatum
  • Ashlyn Ray, Gilmer
  • Ady Daughtry, Tyler Grace
  • Parker Daughtry, Tyler Grace
  • Mikayla Thomas, Kilgore
Head coach Mike Smith (right) and the John Tyler Lady Lions team pose with the 2015 Macy Chenevert Patriot Classic's championship trophy.