WHITE OAK -- The instructions given to Waskom during the game's final timeout were critical. Regardless of what happened next, the Wildcats needed to fall back on defense to save themselves a serious case of the weekend blues.

Senior point guard Kaleb Haynes had even more to worry about. With 8.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter, he was due up at the free throw line to potentially finish a three-point play and a wild comeback after driving the lane for the tying basket.

Haynes got it done at the line to give Waskom a 51-50 road win against White Oak and a half-game of breathing room in the District 17-3A standings against the same Roughnecks.

"A lot was going through my mind." Haynes said, laughing in relief. "'Just make it.' If I missed it, I felt like that would have lost us the game. I just knew I had to make it because everyone was depending on me. I was just focusing on the free throw during the timeout."

Conner Weeks scored a game-best three, 3-pointers for White Oak. (Michel Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

There certainly was reason to think a missed free throw could spoil Haynes' solid individual night -- 19 points, eight rebounds, three steals and an assist.

Haynes put the Wildcats (7-5, 2-0), ranked 18th in the latest Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Class 3A poll, in a position to boat race the Roughnecks (16-8, 2-1) with nine points of a 12-2 run through the first four minutes of the opening quarter.

White Oak led at halftime, 29-25.

And, through four second half lead changes, the Roughnecks also owned a 46-40 advantage at the 2:55 mark of the fourth quarter when Justin Benson converted a missed open layup from Waskom into a 3-point score the other way.

Eric Stephens III broke a three-minute scoring drought from the field on his own put back and then drove to the basket Waskom's next possession to make it 46-44. Those baskets were the last of his 18 points.

The Roughnecks' Landry Sheridan drew two fouls and made four straight free throws down the stretch to give White Oak leads of 48-46 and 50-48. In the interim, senior Waskom guard Mike Reason got a steal and tied the score with 51 seconds to play.

Waskom missed a 3-pointer after Sheridan's last freebie and was forced to foul. The problem was -- even after Sheridan took a foul on the rebound -- the Wildcats were still a whistle away from putting a Roughneck back on the line.

With 15 seconds left, White Oak missed the front end of its only one-and-one situation. Stephens fed Haynes off the rebound and Haynes drove in to tie the game while drawing the Roughnecks' eighth foul of the half.

"We are just fighters," Wildcats head coach Jeff Lyles said. "They just fight, they don't quit and they don't give up. We've experienced being down before. We played a really tough non-conference schedule, and it really got us ready to face situations like tonight. We knew coming in that we were coming into an environment against the team.

"They're one of the top teams in East Texas. We knew they were going to make some 3s and they were going to make plays. We just knew we had to keep playing, grind it out and hoped to have a chance at the end. That's exactly what happened."

For all the lead changes, Waskom only led at points in the second half that combined for 1:40 of game time. The figure includes hanging on at the end of the contest.

White Oak owned a size advantage across the board. After being stunned by 4-for-6 field shooting through the early run, they adjusted to clog the lane and ultimately held Waskom to a 22-for-45 night. The percentage increased because the Roughnecks allowed 10 second-chance points.

Waskom also connected on five shots from behind the arc and went 8-for-10 from the line.

"This means a lot," Reason said. "From my freshman year and before that, I don't think we had beaten White Oak ever. Now, over the past four years, we've beaten them two or three times. It shows a lot of progress in our program."

Sheridan's 16 points and seven defensive rebounds paced White Oak, which shot 20-for-41 from the field with seven 3-pointers as a team in addition to 8-of-10 shooting at the charity stripe.

The Roughnecks travel Tuesday to Elysian Fields. Waskom simultaneously puts its perfect district record on the line at home against Sabine.

"This win hasn't settled things," Lyles said. "But it does put us in good position. That's what you want. You want to be in good position and feel like you have somewhat of a grasp on where you stand. By doing this, we kind of have a leg up. But, also, we know we can't take our next opponents lightly -- Sabine or Elysian Fields. Then we start the gauntlet again. Jefferson and White Oak at home."

The Wildcats bench celebrates Kaleb Haynes' game-tying basket during a timeout before the winning free throw. (Michel Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

No. 18 Waskom 51, White Oak 50

District 17-3A
At White Oak High School

Waskom              18     7    10   16     --    51
White Oak           13    16     7    14      --  50
WASKOM (7-5, 2-0) -- Kaleb Haynes 19, Eric Stephens III 18, Mike Reason 6, K.T. Caesar, Keileon Johnson 3.
WHITE OAK (16-8, 2-1) -- Landry Sherian 16, Justin Benson 9, Conner Weeks 9, Dax Davis 5, Anthony Hoyt 5, Nike Simmons 4, Austin Iske 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Waskom: Stephens (2), Caesar, Haynes, Reason. White OakWeeks (3), Benson, Davis, Hoyt, Sheridan.