LaPoynor Pulls Away From District Rival Cross Roads + Advances To Regionals For Second Consecutive Season
TYLER -- The eighth-ranked LaPoynor Flyers controlled Tuesday night's Class 2A Region III quarterfinal with District 19-2A rival Cross Roads for all but six minutes.
But it got so bad for LaPoynor down the stretch of the first half that what was a 13-point second-quarter lead for the Flyers turned into a one-point halftime deficit. However, a dominating second-half performance carried the Flyers to a convincing 75-56 win before a large gathering at UT Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center.
The win gave LaPoynor (28-4) three wins over Cross Roads (20-12) this season, and advanced the Flyers to the regional tournament for the second consecutive year.
LaPoynor will face Tenaha at 7:30 p.m. Friday from Jewett Leon High School, following the day's first regional semifinal between top-ranked Dallardsville Big Sandy and No. 9 Kerens. Friday's winners will meet for the regional title at 2 p.m. Saturday with a berth at the UIL state tournament in San Antonio on the line.
"Our goal every year is to get to state," said LaPoynor coach Dean Nuckolls after Tuesday night's win. "It's not to win one playoff game, or win two, or get to regionals. Our standard is high; we set high standards, and we expect to achieve them. Last year we underachieved, we lost in the regional finals. Great year … but that's not what we want. From day one, our goal is to go to the state tournament."
LaPoynor outscored Cross Roads, 47-27, in the second half, and a big reason for that was the play of Flyers junior post James Jackson, who finished with 28 points and 15 rebounds. He had 20 points and nine boards in the game's final 16 minutes, which included a 10-for-11 performance at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
"He's been that way all year," Nuckolls said of Jackson. "James is just a big kid, hard to guard. He's just a big, solid kid, and I know a lot of coaches would like to have him on the football field, but they ain't getting him."
Sophomore guard Xavier Oliver added 15 points, three rebounds and two steals in the win, while senior JaCorey Williams had eight points and three boards, and sophomore guard Lane McClelland chipped in with six points, six rebounds, five assists, and a pair of steals.
"My guys are just competitors … they know how to compete from within, and that's why they're a great group of guys," Nuckolls said. "No outstanding athletes, nobody over six-feet tall. They just compete, they're going to get after you, and that's what we did."
Cross Roads, the third-place finisher from 19-2A, had four players finish in double-figures, including senior post Randy Flowers, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. Aaron Arden added 11 points, three assists and two steals, Hunter Davis finished with 11 points and five boards, and Taylor McKenzie registered 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.
LaPoynor was off the races from the very beginning, knocking down three 3-pointers in the first quarter, and closing the period on a 7-0 run to build an 18-9 lead. The lead swelled to 25-13 early in the second when Oliver drove in for a layup after a steal.
But Cross Roads turned up its intensity on the defensive end, using full-court pressure to send LaPoynor into disarray for the rest of the half. The Bobcats forced seven LaPoynor turnovers in the second quarter, and closed the half on a 17-3 run to take a 29-28 lead into halftime.
"We just self-destructed," Nuckolls said. "We let the pressure get to us, and we knew they were going to do it the whole time. They did it the first two games. We just lost our minds, lost focus on the defensive end, offensive end. You name it, we weren't focused. And that's just kinda how it goes sometimes."
Cross Roads got two baskets apiece from Arden and McKenzie, one from Flowers, and went 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final 5:53 of the opening half. A 7-0 spurt, which ended with a McKenzie jumper gave the Bobcats their first lead of the game, 29-28, with 2:18 to play in the half.
The Bobcats slowed the pace in the final two minutes, which was OK with Nuckolls, who wanted to get to halftime in the worst way.
"That's why I was just fine sitting back and letting them run the clock out in that second quarter," he said. "I said, 'let's get into halftime.'"
It took LaPoynor less than a minute to regain the lead in the third quarter, and a 9-2 run in the final 2:59 of the period pushed the Flyers' lead to 50-39 entering the fourth. Cross Roads never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
No. 8 LaPoynor 75, Cross Roads 56
Boys Class 2A Region III Quarterfinal
At UT Tyler's Herrington Patriot Center
Cross Roads 9 20 10 17 -- 56
LaPoynor 18 10 22 25 -- 75
CROSS ROADS (20-12) -- Randy Flowers, 14; Aaron Arden, 11; Hunter Davis, 11; Taylor McKenzie, 10; Clayton Flowers, 3; Blake McCracken, 3; Trey Hazelip, 2; Tanner Simmons, 2.
LAPOYNOR (28-4) -- James Jackson, 28; Xavier Oliver, 15; JaCorey Williams, 8; Lane McClelland, 6; Colton Clair, 6; KeAndre Eldridge, 5; Zach Solis, 5; Garrett Brown, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Cross Roads: Davis. LaPoynor: Clair, Jackson, McClelland, Oliver, Williams.