TYLER -- Tyler Lee walked away from an important Friday slate of District 11-6A games as the big winner.

Despite missing three major contributors, the Red Raiders were able to grind out a 36-27 win against Garland while North Garland pulled an upset against Rowlett. Those two events allowed Lee to hold onto a playoff spot with five district games remaining.

"We're sitting in the three-hole right now," head coach Jeff Coleman said. "If we go on the road Tuesday night, come home Friday and go on the road (the following) Tuesday and are successful, we should be a playoff team. But we have to win."

Jordan Berry drives past Garland's leading scorer, Jorden Wright, for a basket. Berry finished the game with three points. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

The Red Raiders and Rowlett entered the evening in a tie for the final league playoff spot with 4-4 district records. Garland controlled third place with a 5-3 record, a game behind second-place Sachse which in turn was a game behind league leader Lakeview Centennial.

Not only did Lee (15-7, 5-4) propel itself into a tie with Garland and benefit from Rowlett's loss, Rockwall edged Sachse to allow the lone East Texas team within one game of tying Sachse for second place.

The win also avenged an embarrassing 70-42 district loss at Garland on Jan. 6 and gave the Red Raiders a 2-1 series victory. Lee won a non-district game against the Owls, 40-31, at the Forney ISD Winter Classic in December.

Things didn't seem as bright during pregame warmups. Zach Hall, Jordan Devers and Rico Major were unavailable.

Fortunately, Air Force signee Garrett Thibodeaux was healthy. He finished the game with 15 points and recorded 10 rebounds in the win.

Tra Caldwell had eight defensive boards and tied for a team second-best five points. Isjuwan Barker also scored five points.

Garland (11-13, 5-4), which had won four of its past five games, was led in defeat with eight points from Jorden Wright.

Each possession counted.

The Owls only shot 21 percent from the floor in the first half, but it made up for the lackluster number with 4-for-5 free throw shooting. Lee made six of its first 21 shots and added three tallies from the line.

Content to simply tie Garland in the standings, the Red Raiders began playing keep away early in the third quarter. The team burned off the first two minutes of the second half with a missed open look and an offensive rebound before finally ending its first possession with a Barker basket at the 6:00 mark.

"Any time you get a group of guys on the floor and they're willing to be coached, you have a chance to be successful," Coleman said. "These guys tonight were willing to be coached. We did the things that we needed to do, when we needed to do them, to be successful. We limited our transition and controlled the tempo from the start to the finish."

Tyler Lee's Isjuwan Barker finds Garrett Thibodeaux for a shot attempt in the fourth quarter of Friday's game in Tyler. Barker scored five points in the low-scoring affair. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Garland shot 0-for-6 in the third period with two offensive rebounds and went 2-for-4 from the free throw line. Lee increased its lead to 23-16.

But it was still too close for comfort.

Coleman's squad continued to play ball control early in the fourth quarter. The Owls broke their second half scoring drought from the field at the 5:18 mark, and the race was back on.

Wright's steal and dunk on an intercepted pass brought Garland to within 23-21 with five minutes to play, but the Red Raiders went on a 6-2 run over the next two minutes.

Garland went into foul mode to conserve clock and backed itself into the bonus with 1:27 left, down 29-23. Lee fed the ball to Thibodeaux and the forward hit five free throws down the stretch to ice the game.

John Davis put the final points on the board for the Red Raiders with two made shots with half a second remaining.

"We just had to be patient," Thibodeaux said. "They were double teaming a lot. We just had to wait until they jumped and make a quick pass to find the open man for an easy bucket. Then, at the end of the game, they started to get real aggressive."

Lee will visit North Garland at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Garland simultaneously hosts district leading Lakeview Centennial.

Sachse, meanwhile, squares off with a struggling Naaman Forest team.

But if all goes in the Red Raiders' favor, they could finish Tuesday tied for second place with Sachse. A loss, however, could allow Rowlett back into the picture with four games remaining.

"The team has not faced this yet," Coleman said of the late district race. "We just come in, go through our routine and do what we do. It doesn't seem like it's registering or not what's happening to us right now. Sometimes I think I like it because they're not putting any pressure on themselves. We're just going out and playing."

Tyler Lee 36, Garland 27

District 11-6A Boys Basketball
At REL Varsity Gym, Tyler

Garland                     5      9      2    11    --    27
Tyler Lee                   8      7      8    13    --    36
GARLAND (11-13, 5-4) -- Jorden Wright 8; Coree Compton 6; Ladarreous Harris 5; Ty Green 3; Melvin Loveless 2; Jordan Courtney 1; Danny Salamah 1; Lance Wright 1.
TYLER LEE (15-7, 5-4) -- Garrett Thibodeaux 15; Isjuwan Barker 5; Tra Caldwell 5; Zach Dunn 4; Jordan Berry 3; Jogene Aguilar 2; John Davis 2;
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Garland: None. Tyler Lee: None.