NACOGDOCHES -- Few had the Dragons or Lindale pegged as the single biggest team to beat in District 16-5A at the outset of the season. Yet the two teams got to play for the honor in front of a passionate crowd Friday.

De'Quan Batiste scored 28 points to guide Nacogdoches in a 54-49 victory against the Eagles. A victory which gave his squad -- the only team with a single district loss -- sole possession of first place at exactly the halfway mark of the league schedule.

"This is a great feeling," the senior point guard said. "Having a crowd like that and knowing we haven't been district champions in a long time, we've got it in our head that we have a chance to do it. This is a great thing."

De'Quan Batiste puts up a floater against defense from Lindale's Terrell Cooper in the midst of his solo 7-0 run for the Dragons in the second quarter. (Mark Martin,

Batiste got a strong vote of approval from the home side student section. The old "MVP" chant.

He scored seven straight points in 30 seconds during the second quarter to help the Dragons turn a 17-11 deficit into an 18-17 lead on the way to 13 points in the half. After the break, he added 15 more points to keep the Eagles at an arm's length as time wore down.

"He's done it all year," Nacogdoches head coach Patrick Okruhlik said. "D.Q. is a special, gifted athlete and it was an unselfish 28. There are not a whole lot like him running around."

Lindale (15-8, 4-2), which put together nice wins against John Tyler and Lufkin in the past week, knew what was on the line as well. It spent most of the first half in front and rallied from Batiste's solo 7-0 run for a 27-20 lead at the break.

Once Nacogdoches (18-5, 5-1) wing Tyler Underwood found his shot in the second half, however, the Eagles' dream of stealing a road game after a 100-mile bus ride began to fade.

Underwood's first field goal of the night, a 3-pointer, capped a 9-0 Dragons run to open the second half. The team never trailed again.

"We knew they were going to make runs," Underwood said. "They have a lot of great shooters. We knew if we could just keep it close late in the game, we thought we could play tougher than them and pull the game away."

He added a second score from behind the arc and a layup to compliment 7-of-8 shooting from the free throw line for 15 total points.

Lindale's Jordan Gray, fresh off a 30-point game Tuesday against Lufkin, led his side with 15 points. Laettner Greenhill recorded a game-best 12 rebounds in addition to seven points. Kale Ridge rounded out the top flight with nine points.

All the strong performances came down to the final 1:23 of the game. Greenhill hit a 3-pointer to tie the score, 49-49. It broke a Nacogdoches lead that lasted about 12 minutes.

Tyler Underwood drives in against Lindale's Jordan Gray for a Dragons' score in Friday's win in Nacogdoches. (Mark Martin,

But Underwood drew a foul in the bonus the next trip up the floor and made both free throws. The first bounced three times on the rim before going down for the final lead.

Back on defense, Batiste got a steal at the key and converted a layup while being fouled. He hit the subsequent free throw to close out scoring.

Lindale got two offensive boards, won possession on a tipped ball out of bounds and got a steal on a Nacogdoches defensive rebound in the final seconds, but it missed five desperation shots before the buzzer.

"We weren't playing as great as we could in the first half," Batiste said. "We went to the locker room and talked about how big this game was. Our emotions came out."

There's hope for the Eagles and the rest of the league. The six opposing District 16-5A teams will square off with Nacogdoches a second time. Ennis does not play basketball within the district.

The league schedule resumes Tuesday. Nacogdoches will visit a John Tyler team on a three-game losing streak while Lindale hosts a similarly struggling Whitehouse team.

The Dragons and Eagles will meet again for their respective regular season finales Feb. 17 in Lindale. If the two teams remain on current pace, that game could have district championship implications.

"We know there's a whole half of a season to play," Okruhlik said. "We know this wasn't the game to end all games, win or lose. That's kind of our approach. Telling that to kids and getting them to believe it are two different things, but I'm impressed with our kids. We didn't play well, but we had enough grit to pull it out."

Nacogdoches' Tay Thomas and Lindale's Kale Ridge battle for a rebound in the final seconds of Friday's game. (Mark Martin,

Nacogdoches 54, Lindale 49

District 16-5A Boys Basketball
At Nacogdoches High School, Nacogdoches

Lindale                     13    14    10    12    --    49
Nacogdoches            9    11    19    15    --    54
LINDALE (15-8, 4-2) -- Jordan Gray 15; Kale Ridge 9; Laettner Greenhill 7; Terrell Cooper 6; Dietrich Fry 6; De Jackson 2; Kolton Pierce 2; Garrett Sir Louis 2.
NACOGDOCHES (18-5, 5-1) -- De'Quan Batiste 28; Tyler Underwood 15; Nathan Harshbarger 6; Tucker White 4; Jaylon Maxie 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Lindale: Gray (4), Fry (2), Greenhill. Nacogdoches: Batiste (3), Underwood (2).