No. 2 White Oak Too Much for No. 16 Salado in 63-44 Regional Semifinal Win that Sets Table for Saturday Rematch with Tatum
NACOGDOCHES -- Too much firepower. Too much ball pressure. Too much White Oak.
The defending Class 2A state champion Roughnecks got a momentum-shifting, halfcourt, bank-shot three-pointer to end the first half and never led by fewer than 11 points the rest of the way in a 63-44 victory against No. 16 Salado in Friday's 2A Region III semifinal at SFA's William R. Johnson Coliseum.
White Oak (34-1), ranked second in the final Texas Association of Basketball Coaches regular-season poll, faces District 17-2A rival Tatum (31-9) at noon Saturday at SFA for the Region III crown. White Oak beat Tatum 59-54 at home Jan. 9, then edged the Eagles on Levi Yancy's buzzer-beating tip-in, 63-62, on Feb. 2 in Tatum.
White Oak and Tatum, which lost in the 2011 state title game, represent the last two Region III champions.
White Oak built a 16-5 lead entering the second quarter, but Salado (28-9) came back, cutting the Roughnecks lead to five points twice. Up 32-24 in the first half's waning seconds, White Oak's Josh Benson launched a halfcourt shot at the buzzer that banked in for a 35-24 halftime lead.
Combined with the first eight second-half points, White Oak assembled an 11-0 run stretching across the second and third quarters to build an insurmountable lead. Kris Anderson scored a game-high 19 points thanks in part to an array of pull-up jumpers to accompany four rebounds and three assists. Benson came off the bench for 13 points and four rebounds. Yancy, White Oak's 6-foot-7 shot-blocker, erased five first-quarter shots -- three in a row on one possession -- and finished with six points and seven rejections.
"I thought we really kinda hit them in the mouth early. They were shellshocked a little bit. I think our experience showed a little bit there," said White Oak coach Ron Boyett. "Second quarter it got real physical. They played better and shot better, and it took us a little while to get used to that. I think JB's shot there at the end (of the first half) kinda gave us a shot in the arm, and we needed it. You look back on the scoreboard, (the lead) is 11 points, and it was 11 after the first (quarter). Even though we hadn't played as well in the second quarter, we hadn't lost any ground. I think that was a big momentum shot."
White Oak forced almost 20 Salado turnovers, including eight in the tone-setting first quarter. Salado owned the backboards, 39-23, including a 10-1 deadball rebound advantage and 18-2 offensive board edge, but White Oak's defense made the extra shot attempts moot.
Salado shot a paltry 28.2 percent on 18-for-64 shooting.
"I thought we played pretty good defense most of the night," Boyett said. "We protected the paint pretty well. That was our goal going in."
White Oak's Hayden Nichols had a solid night inside with nine points and six rebounds. Shooting guard Skylar Sutton scored 10 points, including 2-for-3 three-point shooting.
The victory sets up Round 3 between White Oak and Tatum. The first two games were decided by a combined six points.
Asked if he'd rather be playing a team that he had not already played -- and beaten -- twice in the regular season, Boyett said it doesn't matter.
"They throw you in the tournament and you play who they say to play," he said. "I think we're probably the two best defensive teams in the region, and that's why we're both playing tomorrow. We'll line up, play our guts out like we have every time, and see what happens."
Austin Adams led Salado with 12 points and eight rebounds, followed by Kase Spears and Dane Hankamer, who scored nine apiece.
Class 2A Region III
No. 2 White Oak 63, No. 16 Salado 44
SFA's William R. Johnson Coliseum, Nacogdoches
Salado -- 5 19 7 13 -- 44
White Oak -- 16 19 14 14 -- 63
Salado (28-9) -- Austin Adams 12, Dane Hankamer 9, Kase Spears 9, Brandon Womac 7, Kyle Heiner 5, Andrew Warren 2.
White Oak (34-1) -- Kris Anderson 19, Josh Benson 13, Skylar Sutton 10, Hayden Nichols 9, Levi Yancy 6, Slade Sutton 5, Gabe Michael 1.