Ron Boyett knew he had a lot of talent returning from last year's Class 2A state championship team.

He also knew he didn't have two starters back, including the state tournament MVP. Caleb Carr averaged 17.8 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.2 last year, when he not only became White Oak's career scoring leader, but set the single-season points record. Jerred Whisenhunt, a dependable 6-foot-4 forward, was also gone.

With that in mind, Boyett knew this year's Roughnecks had to find their own identity, even with several familiar faces.

"Last year we won a lot of games in the fourth quarter and Caleb finished a lot of games for us," Boyett said. "This year, it's been more of a team. We've got a lot guys that can finish and spread it around. We're pretty tough to guard when it's like that."

White Oak's Kris Anderson drives to the basket during a 66-47 regional final victory against Tatum at SFA. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Senior point guard Kris Anderson, the engine of White Oak's offensive machine, led the charge at the Region III tournament. In two games, Anderson had 48 points and eight assists, including a 29-point, five-assist outburst in the regional championship against Tatum.

But White Oak's third-round win against Palestine Westwood was a perfect example of the Roughnecks' season-long offensive balance. Junior forward Hayden Nichols, who took Whisenhunt's spot in the starting lineup, had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while 6-foot-7 senior forward Levi Yancy added 16 points and 10 boards. Senior guard Skylar Sutton, who took Carr's vacated starting spot, scored 14 points. Junior guard Slade Sutton scored 11, Anderson had six points and eight assists, and junior sixth man Josh Benson had six points and six rebounds.

If four players reaching double-figures grabs your attention, consider that five average double figures. Six Roughnecks average at least 7.8 points per game.

Perhaps no players in the White Oak lineup have been as instrumental in the offense's continuity as the Sutton brothers. They are frequent targets of Anderson, who regularly pushes the ball in transition, only to hit Skylar or Slade for a corner trey.

White Oak's Josh Benson drives against a Salado defender during White Oak's 63-44 regional semifinal win at SFA. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Neither Anderson nor Yancy, the players who often get the most publicity as White Oak's cornerstones, leads the Roughnecks in scoring. That distinction goes to Skylar Sutton, the man who replaced last year's leading scorer. Skylar's 14.0 points per game are followed by Yancy's 12.2, Anderson's 11.9, Slade Sutton's 11.2, and Nichols' 10.7. Benson's 7.8 points give Boyett a dependable player off the bench.

"Last year I was just a pure spot-up three-point shooter pretty much. This year I've kinda taken on Caleb's role," Skylar Sutton said. "I'm like an all-around scorer now, and my defense is a lot better. We also had to have a bunch of underclassmen step up and fill in some spots. My brother's doing a good job of taking that three-pointer shooter role that I had last year.

"Most people didn't know about my brother, but I knew about him. I knew what he was capable of. I knew we were gonna have just as good a season just because we're so balanced. Me and Slade are knockdown three-point shooters. Hayden's strong and can finish around the basket. Levi and Kris are college players."

With its identity well in place entering this weekend's state tournament, White Oak faces the pressure of playing with the defending state champion label resting squarely on its shoulders.

Boyett, who has led White Oak to a 72-2 record since the start of last season, said the Roughnecks pay no attention to what may be perceived as pressure placed on them by others.

"We don't really look at it like that. We've done a really good job all year just playing each game as they come. We try not to put any extra emphasis on any of them," Boyett said. "Once the playoffs start, we just wanna win the next one, and hopefully you do that until you get to the end of the line. We've said all year we're gonna do our best and we'll take the results that come with it. We're not just looking at the results because I don't think you play well when you do that. I think you look at the process and how you play. They've done a good job of that."

When asked the same question about feeling pressure as the defending champs, Anderson quickly said, "No."

"We've got experience," he said confidently. "That's the only thing that matters."

White Oak's Levi Yancy puts up a shoot during a 63-44 regional semifinal win against Salado at SFA's William R. Johnson Coliseum in Nacogdoches. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)