WHITEHOUSE -- The John Tyler Lions are in the playoffs. But it took withstanding a sensational 3-point shooting performance from Nacogdoches to make it happen.

John Tyler overcame 16 Nacogdoches 3-pointers, including nine from De'Quan Batiste, to fend off the Dragons, 73-64, in a playoff for District 16-5A's final postseason berth Friday night at Wildcat Arena.

The Lions (19-12) will take on 15-5A champion and 22nd-ranked Marshall (30-1) next week in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Nacogdoches, which began league play 5-1, dropped six of its final seven games and ended the year at 19-11.

Batiste scored a game-high 33 points and was the only Dragons player in double figures. In addition to his nine 3-pointers, Batiste added four rebounds and three steals.

Nacogdoches' De'Quan Batiste (23) attempts a 3-point shot in the Dragons' 73-64 loss to John Tyler in their District 16-5A playoff Friday night in Whitehouse. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

"Batiste, you can't say enough about him, man," said John Tyler coach Cedeno Clark. "He's unbelievable. That was our main focus coming into the game, and … wow. That's all I can say. Wow."

Nacogdoches only made six field goals from inside the arc, attempted just four free throws, was minus-eight on the boards, turned it over more than 20 times, and was outscored on the bench, 31-13. But the 3-point shot was the great equalizer, helping the Dragons take a brief lead midway through the fourth quarter.

"Yeah, I've seen shooting like that … when I've been watching an NBA game," Clark said. "But on the high school level, no, I've never seen shooting like that, especially from the area that they were shooting it from."

John Tyler used its size advantage in the low post and a critical mistake by Batiste and the Dragons late in the game to finally put away Nacogdoches.

WIth the Lions leading 55-46 in the fourth quarter, Batiste single-handedly vaulted the Dragons into lead for the first time since the early stages of the opening period with the game's next 10 points.

"I just knew it was a big game, and I knew I was going to have to play hard," Batiste said. "I had a tough game my last game. Usually if I have a tough game, I come back strong. I just knew it was going to be a good day today."

John Tyler's J'Khari Lewis goes up for a layup on a fastbreak during the Lions' 73-64 win over Nacogdoches in their District 16-5A playoff Friday night in Whitehouse. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Batiste began the surge with a conventional 3-point play, and followed that up with a 4-point play after he was fouled on a made 3 as the guard was falling backward to the floor. His next triple gave Nacogdoches a 56-55 lead with 4:27 to play.

It was the last shot Batiste attempted.

The Dragons guard was called for a technical foul for taunting on the go-ahead shot, and was guilty of a charge on Nacogdoches' next possession, which incidentally was his fifth foul of the night.

"I held the three fingers up and they called it taunting," Batiste said. "I had been doing it the whole game. The refs were pretty good, but I guess they just got tired of it."

With Batiste on the bench for the remaining four minutes, John Tyler went on an 18-8 run to seal the win. And the Lions accomplished that by attacking the basket, and getting to the free throw line, which they did 26 times for the game.

"That's what I tell (my players) all the time, about keeping their composure in situations like that because in games like this, it's all about who's playing the hardest and who's playing with the least mistakes," Clark said. "They made a crucial mistake right there, and it ended up giving us an opportunity to go to the free-throw line and get an easy bucket."

John Tyler's frontcourt foursome of Jacob Owens-Bush, Ja'Khari Lewis, Rodney Bendy, and J'Michael Jasper combined for 44 points and 22 rebounds.

Owens-Bush led the way with 21 points, six rebounds and two steals, Lewis added 11 points and four boards, Bendy finished with seven points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Jasper tallied five points and seven rebounds.

"That was our focus going in, we wanted to feature the bigs," Clark said. "And that's what we did; we tried to focus on getting the ball inside. That was our primary objective, and that's what we did. Our kids fed the post players and we got buckets around the basket."

Nacogdoches' De'Quan Baptiste (left), who scored 33 points and had nine 3-pointers, goes to the basket as John Tyler's Rodney Bendy defends during their District 16-5A playoff Friday night in Whitehouse. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler's guards were also active, especially on the defensive end, where the Lions racked up 15 steals on the night. Bryson Smith and Patrick Williams each had 10 points and three steals, while Martese Christian contributed four points, four steals and three assists.

The Lions went on a 10-0 run at the end of the first quarter to build an 11-point lead, and led by nine, 40-31, at halftime, despite seven Nacogdoches 3's -- six from Batiste.

JT threatened to run away from Nacogdoches at the beginning of the second half after scoring the first five points of the third to go up 45-31, but the Dragons cut the deficit in half entering the fourth quarter by getting five 3's from four different players.

"It's playoff basketball, you've got to be ready for it," Clark said. "From this point forward, you're going to have tough teams you're going to play. And that's the way it is. Like I told my guys, 'we were four points away from being a 2-seed (in district), and we also knocked off the No. 1 seed. Both of these teams had been No. 1 in our district at some point in time this year. That's a good team over there in Nacogdoches, and you've just got to give them credit."

John Tyler's next opponent, Marshall, has only been defeated once this season. And that came in tournament play back in December. The Mavericks won their 14 district games by an average margin of 26 points.

"We're going to see the same thing," Clark said. "Marshall likes to shoot it a great deal, they like to get up and down a lot. We've just got to strap it up and be ready to go."

John Tyler coach Cedeno Clark looks on during the final moments of his team's 73-64 win over Nacogdoches in their District 16-5A playoff Friday night in Whitehouse. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

John Tyler 73, Nacogdoches 64

District 16-5A Boys Basketball Playoff
At Wildcat Arena, Whitehouse

Nacogdoches             11    20    15    18    --    64
John Tyler                   19    21    13    20    --    73
NACOGDOCHES (19-11) -- De'Quan Batiste, 33; Conner Covington, 9; Tay Thomas, 8; Tucker White, 5; Haafiz Hashim, 4; Taylor White, 3; Thomas Wallace, 2.
JOHN TYLER (19-12) -- Jacob Owens-Bush, 21; Ja'Khari Lewis, 11; Bryson Smith, 10; Patrick Williams, 10; Rodney Bendy, 7; J'Michael Jasper, 5; Martese Christian, 4; Tavian Teal, 3; Carlin Gray, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Nacogdoches: Batiste (9), Covington (3), Thomas (2), Harshbarger, Taylor White. John Tyler: Teal.