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Tyler Grace Defeats Rival T.K. Gorman in TAPPS District 2-4A Playoff, 51-42

TYLER — The fourth time was a charm for the Tyler Grace Couagrs as they defeated rival T.K. Gorman, 51-42, in a TAPPS District 2-4A playoff at UT Tyler’s Herrington Patriot Center on Thursday.

Grace (13-13), which had fallen to Gorman (13-15) in three previous meetings this season, moves on to play Tyler All Saints on Saturday for seeding in the district tournament.

Trevor Gunter led the Cougars with 18 points, eight rebounds and three second-half blocks. Verlo Levels added 10 points and seven boards. Andrew Melhart had nine points (all on 3-pointers) and James Olson had three steals.

Gorman, led by Ben Ashworth’s 17 points, won the first quarter, 17-14, but Grace held the Crusaders to single-digit quarters the rest of the way.

“This is a rivalry game, a game you dream about if you’re at Grace or Gorman as a kid,” said Grace coach Neal Welch. “You always want to beat your rival.”

Welch attributed the slow start to his kids learning a new press defense this week.

“We started out slow,” he said. “We just put in a new press and some of our guys were on their heels. We talked about being on your toes, but we didn’t start out that way. But eventually we got there. We caused a couple turnovers and picked up our zone defense with on-ball pressure. We picked up the tempo and feel like that plays to our favor.”

Grace had a big second quarter, thanks to three triples, two from Melhart and one by Olson. After Levels sank a fadeaway jumper to tie it at 25, Gunter finished the half in style.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore had a great up-and-under post move with less than two minutes until halftime, giving Grace a lead they never relinquished, 27-26.

“(Trevor) is a guy that’s not the tallest, but he’s long and great at timing the ball, a great shot blocker for his size because he times the shot so well,” Welch said. “Offensively, he’s one of our best finishers. You wouldn’t think that looking at him, but he’s strong with the ball and he’s huge for our team.”

Grace opened the second half on a 9-2 run, started by a Gunter bucket in the lane and capped by Melhart with a big 3-pointer for a 36-28 advantage.

But Gorman didn’t quit.

Sean Goforth took a charge on the defensive end, then found Ashworth for the long 3 with less than a minute remaining in the third, bringing Gorman within five, 39-34. Goforth finished with 11 points, three assists and two steals.

Gorman got within one, 39-38, with Brandon Lackner’s steal (one of his six in the second half) and dish to Ashworth for the layup at the 5:56 mark.

But on the next trip down the floor, Gunter grabbed an offensive board, and was fouled on the putback for the 3-point play. Minutes later, Phillip McKinney made the extra pass to Tanner Starr for the bucket underneath, and it was 47-40 with just less than a minute to play.

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