No. 15 Zavalla Eliminates Three-Time Defending 1A D-II Champ Neches in D-I Regional Quarterfinals
LUFKIN — For the first time since 2008, a girls state basketball tournament won't feature Neches.
The Lady Tigers saw their impressive run of state and regional dominance come to an end Tuesday at Angelina College's Shands Gymnasium as 15th-ranked Zavalla topped Neches 46-38 in the Class A Division I Region III quarterfinals.
Zavalla plays No. 1 Martin's Mill at noon Friday in the second semifinal of the Class A Division I Region III tournament at Tyler Junior College's Wagstaff Gym. No. 8 Slocum plays undefeated No. 2 Martinsville at 10 a.m. Friday in the first semifinal.
Neches was the three-time defending Class A Division II champion, but moved up to Division I following Feb. 2012 realignment.
Zavalla's offense was a two-person, inside-out performance, orchestrated by senior Sara Dugat and junior forward Caitlyn Lambert. The duo combined for 31 of Zavalla's 46 points and, whether it was Lambert's presence inside or Dugat's quick outside game, Neches found it hard to stop.
Zavalla's Shelby Lee hit a three-pointer with a little more than four minutes left in the fourth quarter that appeared put the game away. The shot gave the Lady Eagles a 12-point cushion, and Neches did not get the lead down to single digits until less than two minutes remained on the clock.
Then Neches' Kiandra Taylor stole a Zavalla pass and made a wide-open layup to cut the lead to 42-34. Lee hit two free throws to extend the lead back to 10, but Neches quickly answered with a three from Kelsee Wade to make it a seven-point game.
But it Neches got no closer.
Wade led Neches with 11 points, while Taylor had 10. McKay-Lee Chapman had eight points and seven rebounds. Lee had seven for Zavalla.