No. 2 White Oak Holds Off No. 5 Tatum 59-54 in District 17-2A Showdown
WHITE OAK -- Round 1 of the highly anticipated District 17-2A matchup between No. 2 White Oak and No. 5 Tatum went to the Roughnecks.
White Oak built a double-digit first-half lead and weathered several Tatum runs, including two in the second half that cut the Roughnecks' lead to a single possession, to hang on for a 59-54 victory before a capacity crowd at E.B. Carrington Gymnasium on Tuesday night.
Tatum's 9-0 third-quarter run capped by shooting guard Robbie Rockwell's floater cut White Oak's lead to 40-39 and kept the Eagles within three points headed to the fourth quarter. The teams combined for 14 points in the fourth's first two minutes before point guard Kris Anderson's floater with 2:15 remaining pushed White Oak ahead by seven, 56-49.
Then came Tatum's final push. Rockwell popped a top-of-the-key three-pointer to cut the gap to 56-54 with 1:37 remaining, but White Oak pushed the ball up the floor and got a quick basket from forward Hayden Nichols for a four-point lead. White Oak shooting guard Skylar Sutton drew a charge in the final minute, and two Roughnecks combined to force a turnover moments later to thwart the Eagles' comeback.
"We've been playing in big games all the time, so we know every team like that is always gonna have a run," said Anderson, who had 10 points -- four in the fourth -- three assists, and two steals. "As long a we don't have turnovers in bunches and buckets back to back like that, we know we're good."
White Oak (20-1, 4-0) built a 14-point second-quarter lead, but Tatum charged back behind guard Javolick Garrett, who scored a game-high 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting before fouling out with with 2:29 left in the game on a charge drawn by Anderson. Tatum trimmed White Oak's lead to 34-28 by halftime to get back in the game for good.
White Oak, the defending Class 2A state champion, is no stranger to pressure-packed games. Neither is Tatum, the 2011 2A state runner-up. That made for two teams with high expectations that didn't fold in Tuesday night's pressure situations.
"I thought it was crucial to keep the lead, momentum-wise," said White Oak coach Ron Boyett of surviving Tatum's second-half runs. "We do have some guys that have played on some pretty big stages, and I think that always helps you, but you still also as your own, individual group have to show you can do it. I think that's why in a lot of ways it was such a good win tonight. Our team last year showed they could do that, but you've gotta show you can do it when it's your turn. I thought it went a long way as far as that went."
Nichols had a solid first half with eight points and five rebounds and came up big down the stretch. He finished with a team-high 15 points and six boards, while Slade Sutton hit all three of his field-goal attempts and all but one of his seven free-throw tries for 14 points. Josh Benson came off the White Oak bench to score 10 points, and 6-foot-7 forward Levi Yancy compensated for a slow offensive night with his usual defensive prowess: four points, 10 rebounds, seven blocks.
"I thought Hayden played really well consistently. Hayden's a talented player, and he shows it in spurts, but I thought tonight for a long, sustainted period of time, he really played hard and he really played well," Boyett said. "After Robbie made the three to cut it to two (with 1:37 remaining), he came back and made a basket. ... I felt we were in pretty good shape as long as it was a two-possession game, and he put it back to that when Robbie made the big three. I thought that was a big momentum thing for us."
Rockwell complemented Garrett's 22 points with 10 points of his own, but White Oak limited his shots, especially in the first half, when the Tatum sharpshooter was 1-for-2 from the field. Rockwell's penchant for hitting opponents with a barrage of three-pointers was not lost on White Oak when the Roughnecks planned for Tuesday night's game.
"Our game plan was to not let him catch it. We had one person in his jersey the whole time, Skylar (Sutton)," Anderson said.
"He's gotta be part of the game plan," Boyett said of Rockwell. "I thought we did a good job, particularly early, of limiting his touches, and when he did touch it, make it hard on him to get a clean look at the basket. He's one of the best shooters in East Texas, and he's got such a quick release, you've got to stay right in the middle of him. Skylar gets a lot of credit for his offense, but I thought he did a really good job on defense tonight. Tanner Sharp came in to spell him, and I thought together they at least made it tough on him. He's gonna make some shots, but I thought we did make him work for the ones he made."
White Oak took advantage of a 12-0 second-half free-throw attempt advantage, making eight. The Roughnecks hit 18 of 22 free throws for the game compared to Tatum's 6-for-7. The Eagles compensated from three-point range, where they made 6 of 19 tries to White Oak's 3-for-7.
Tatum's Shaq Johnson hit 2 of 4 three-point attempts and played spearheaded Tatum's high-intensity, ball-pressure defense. Klifton Willis had five points and six rebounds. Cole Hughes added four points, six boards, and two steals.
White Oak's lone loss of the season was a 78-62 setback to new No. 1 Kountze in the Tenaha Holiday Hoops championship less than two weeks ago. Anderson said playing against Kountze's athletic full-court press impacted White Oak's performance in Tuesday's meeting with Tatum.
"I think the matchup against Kountze really helped us in this game because of the ball pressure and with the press," Anderson said. "I think we handled it good for the most part. It's good playing athletic teams.
"We've just got to take care of business Friday against Jefferson. They're an athletic team. They're gonna press. If we handle our business, when we go to Tatum, the pressure's on them."
White Oak visits Tatum on Feb. 1 during the second round of 17-2A play. The Roughnecks travel to Jefferson on Friday, while Tatum hosts Elysian Fields.
Boys Basketball Game
No. 2 White Oak 59, No. 5 Tatum 54
E.B. Carrington Gymnasium, Tatum
Tatum -- 9 19 11 15 -- 54
White Oak -- 17 17 8 17 -- 59
Tatum (19-7, 3-1) -- Javolick Garrett 22, Robbie Rockwell 10, Shaq Johnson 6, Devante Alexander 5, Klifton Willis 5, Cole Hughes 4, Jahee Johnson 2.
White Oak (20-1, 4-0) -- Hayden Nichols 15, Slade Sutton 14, Kris Anderson 10, Josh Benson 10, Skylar Sutton 6, Levi Yancy 4.