LINDALE -- The crowd could hear the ball scrape across the hand of a Lindale defender during Lufkin's drive down the floor for an equalizing basket in the final scheduled seconds of Tuesday's big District 16-5A game.

That's how close the Eagles came from notching a huge victory without the pomp and circumstance.

But all's well that ends well. The Eagles overcame 1-of-5 shooting from the field and 36 percent shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to sink the Panthers, 56-50, in overtime. And it set up an important game Friday.

"They kept on fighting back," Lindale head coach Scott Albritton said. "We built up a lead that was as many as 11 points at one time and they fought back to get within three and the end of the third quarter. We pushed it up a little in the fourth and they came down and made a big play there at the very end of the game to tie it and send it overtime. That says a lot about those guys."

The game had serious implications for a league that has not followed preseason expectations.

Lufkin (17-7, 3-3) could have drawn back into contention for first place near the halfway mark of district play. The Eagles (15-7, 4-1), on the other hand, entered the meeting battling to stay atop of the standings with Nacogdoches.

In Lindale, both teams had reasons to believe they were going to get their way at halftime.

Jordan Gray found his mark three minutes into the game and hit Lufkin hard with five 3-pointers on the way to 20 points at the break. Yet the Panthers survived it for a manageable 28-24 deficit after a long drive to the venue.

Hits kept coming in the early third quarter, however, and Lindale grabbed an 11-point lead halfway through the frame.

Then the Eagles' shooting leveled. Lufkin closed the quarter on a 9-3 run fueled by a steal and three defensive rebounds to face a 38-35 deficit.

Lindale, which entered the bonus with more than seven minutes left in regulation, only managed six points to Lufkin's nine in the fourth quarter despite the Panthers committing another five fouls before the buzzer.

Kenan Jackson capped the period with a drive to the hoop after Lindale scraped but failed to steal the dish from Ja'darrien Bennett. That tied the game at 44-44 with less than 10 seconds to play.

"From the very beginning, we were expected to get second-to-last in district," Gray said. "We knew we were coming in tied with Nacogdoches. That gave us a lot of fire. We played with a lot of heart and will to win the game. We want to keep staying on top."

Maybe the Eagles remembered that during the break to talk over the extra period. Maybe they just needed a moment to detatch from the string of bad breaks.

Either way, Lufkin kept fouling rather than backing off and allowing the opposition to ding them without contention.

Lindale shot 8-of-10 from the line in overtime, Gray sidearmed home a basket and Laettner Greenhill hit a jumper.

Down 48-45 with 1:43 left in the extra period, the Panthers finally reached the bonus but only got the opportunity to shoot a single one-and-one. They drew within 52-50 with 26 seconds to play on a Bennett 3-pointer.

Lindale's Dietrich Fry hit a pair of free throws on the next trip up the floor.

Lufkin fouled Gray with three seconds left to give itself a chance if he missed at least one shot from the line. Gray converted both to end a 30-point personal night.

"We missed a lot of free throws tonight," Albritton said. "But we made four big ones at the end."

Lufkin's KeKe Coutee, a Texas Tech football commitment, scored 14 points to lead the team and recorded five important defensive rebounds in regulation.

Greenhill rounded out double digit scorers with 14 points for Lindale.

Lufkin will host John Tyler at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Lindale will play in the league's biggest game yet, a simultaneous battle at Nacogdoches that will determine the first place team before the league cycles through itself a second time.

"This is anybody's district still, but it says a lot when you can win the tough games at home and win a couple of tough road games also," Albritton said. "The first five games of this district is not going to win it for you. It's going to come down to the second round of district, and it's still anybody's game."
Laettner Greenhill, pictured at the Wagstaff Holiday Classic against Longview, scored 14 points in Lindale's 56-50 overtime win Tuesday against Lufkin.

Lindale 56, Lufkin 50

District 16-5A Game
At Lindale High School, Lindale

Lufkin                  16        8     11      9        6   --   55
Lindale                16      12     10      6      12   --   66

Lufkin -- KeKe Coutee 14; Ja'darrien Bennett 9; Kenan Jackson 9; Royce Kennebrew 8; Worth Gabriel 4; Erik McCoy 4; Cameron Heart 2.
Lindale -- Jordan Gray 30; Laettner Greenhill 14; Dietrich Fry 5; Terrell Cooper 4; De Jackson 2; Kolton Pierce 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Lufkin: Bennett, Gabriel. Lindale: Gray (6), Greenhill.



Lady Panthers Run Over Lindale

Lufkin built up a 10-0 lead through and benefitted from six Lindale turnovers in the first three minutes of Tuesday's District 16-5A game.

It didn't get much better for the Lady Eagles.

The Lady Panthers recorded 17 steals and Lindale committed a total of 31 turnovers in a 79-51 Lufkin win.

"We try to turn our defense into offense," Lady Panthers head coach Harold Scroggins said. "Our goal is to create 25 turnovers a night and we did that tonight."

The Lady Panthers scored 20 points in each of the first three quarters. They put up 19 in the final frame.

NaTasha Mack led the way with 24 points, 10 rebounds and two steals.

Lufkin (18-6, 5-2) double digit scorers were rounded out by Mycah McDonald with 12 points and KeKe Cleveland with 10.

McDonald had six offensive boards to tie Mack for the team's best rebounding performance. She also tied with Ivie Massie, Jakayla Suell and Cleveland for a team-high in steals with three.

The Lady Eagles were led by 16 points from Heather McLaughlin. McKenna Cox scored 15 points and Jade Mauldin added 10 as Lindale's top performers.

Lindale will try to bounce back Friday at Nacogdoches. Lufkin will host John Tyler.


Lufkin 79, Lindale 51

District 16-5A Girls Basketball
At Lindale High School, Lindale

Lufkin                  20       20    20      19    --   79
Lindale                  6       15    18       12   --   51

Lufkin -- NaTasha Mack 24; Mycah McDonald 12; KeKe Cleveland 10; Jakayla Suell 9; Brittant Taylor 8; Ivie Massie 4;  Yanna Brantley 2; Shea Brooks 1; KeKe Jones 1.
Lindale -- Heather McLaughlin 16; McKenna Cox 15; Jade Mauldin 10; Lexa Clay 2; London Reue 2; Alicia Saunders 2; Kayla Webb 2; Mallory Welvaert 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Lufkin: Cleveland (2), Suell. Lindale: Mauldin (2), Cox (2).