No. 2 Kountze Beats No. 18 White Oak 62-53 for Tenaha Holiday Hoops Scholarship Classic Boys Title
[By Brad Ernst of HoopInsider, Special to ETSN.fm]
TENAHA — When the bracket was released for the fifth annual Tenaha Holiday Hoops Scholarship Classic, fans knew Class 2A’s No. 2 Kountze and two-time defending state champion and 18th-ranked White Oak would be placed on opposite ends of the bracket for a possible rematch in the championship.
That’s exactly what the fans got Saturday night at Tenaha’s Special Events Center.
A 12-0 run pushed Kountze ahead early in the fourth, then Justin Harper came up huge for the Lions, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the final period to propel his team to a 62-53 victory over White Oak.
The tournament championship is Kountze’s fourth in the five-year history of the event and the Lions’ second in as many seasons after last year’s 78-62 triumph vs. White Oak.
Harper hit a big three-pointer that put Kountze up 58-50 with 1:30 to go. White Oak’s Hayden Nichols hit a three pointer to cut the lead to 58-53, but Kountze sophomore point guard Grayland Arnold made two late free throws to put the game away for the nine-point victory.
Arnold, who scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half, earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors, while teammates Harper and Xavier Barnes received all-tournament recognition. White Oak’s Josh Benson and Slade Sutton were named to the all-tournament team. Benson scored 15 points, while teammate Gabe Michael followed with 12.
Kountze’s go-ahead run spanned late third quarter to early fourth quarter. The 12-point spurt gave the Lions a 51-42 lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining, but White Oak stormed back within one point, 51-50, on Nichols’ three-point play with 3:50 left in the game.
That’s as close as White Oak got. Kountze went on a late 7-0 run for the aforementioned 58-50 lead thanks in part to the Lions’ usual high-intensity full-court pressure, which made a big difference in the game’s latter stages.
Despite Kountze’s pressure, White Oak hit 10 three-pointers as a team.
The game went back and forth for much of the first three quarters. Kountze led 19-18, 30-28 at halftime, and 44-42 going to the fourth.