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Whitehouse Boys Clinch Share Of District Title With 57-54 Win Over Jacksonville

Whitehouse guard Javier Neal scored a game-best 17 points in the Wildcats' 57-54 victory against Jacksonville.
Whitehouse guard Javier Neal scored a game-best 17 points in the Wildcats’ 57-54 victory against Jacksonville.

WHITEHOUSE — Tuesday was a day of compromise for Whitehouse and Jacksonville.

The Wildcats won the District 17-5A finale, 57-54, but circumstances out of their control cost them an outright league championship among the six teams. The Indians lost the game yet got help from the district’s last-place team to make the playoffs without having to play a district play-in game.

It could have been better for either team. It could have been far more disappointing, too.

“The way the tiebreaker is, it comes down to your record against the third-place team, which was Corsicana,” Whitehouse coach Brent Kelley said. “Nacogdoches swept them and we split with them. Nac will be the one seed and we’ll be the two seed. But we’ll both go down as co-champions.”

Wildcats head coach Brent Kelley, who formerly coached Jacksonville, has led Whitehouse into the postseason for the second consecutive season.
Wildcats head coach Brent Kelley, who formerly coached Jacksonville, has led Whitehouse into the postseason for the second consecutive season.

Kelley’s comments came seconds after he heard the last minutes of Corsicana’s radio call from its game against Nacogdoches. His team and about 100 supporters congregated on the floor to somewhat quietly celebrate while the audio call of the other game played on the Wildcat Arena public address system.

Whitehouse (22-9, 8-2) entered the meeting with Jacksonville gunning for it all. It was tied with Nacogdoches in the district standings and needed to win against the Indians while also needing Corsicana to defeat Nacogdoches for the standalone championship.

The Indians (10-16, 3-7) tipped off one game ahead of Ennis in the standings and needed a win to keep ahead. Ennis was simultaneously starting its game against last-place Lindale, and an Ennis win plus a Jacksonville loss would have forced a district playoff game for the fourth and final playoff seed out of the league.

Lindale edged Ennis, 36-35, to lift the Indians into the postseason.

But Jacksonville nearly got a signature win against Whitehouse.

An 18-4 run through the first the first six minutes of the second half erased a 31-20 halftime deficit, and the Indians ultimately extended their newfound lead out to 45-39 with 5:30 remaining in the game.

That’s when all heck broke loose.

The Wildcats were back in control at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter thanks to a three-point play by Jackson Mahomes, a bucket by Javier Neal off his own steal and a go-ahead layup in transition by Zach Parker.

Jacksonville tied the game, 54-54, with 47 seconds to play, but a Mahomes layup and a missed 3-pointer the other way forced the Indians into foul mode with seven seconds left.

Jake Clemons missed the front end of a one-and-one situation at the free throw line. He came up with the rebound, however, and knocked down the front end of his next one-and-one before missing the second shot.

D’montrey Christopher’s heave-ho just before the buzzer fell well short of the Jacksonville goal some 90 feet away.

“It feels good to have a piece of the championship,” Neal said. “We’ve been working hard since day one to get this district championship. We’re just hoping to build on it and make a playoff run.”

Neal scored a game-best 17 points in addition to four recorded rebounds and two steals.

Mahomes hit double figures as well with 13 points. He also pulled down five boards and blocked three shots in the three-point victory.

Cameron High scored a team-best 16 points for Jacksonville in defeat.
Cameron High scored a team-best 16 points for Jacksonville in defeat.

Cameron High, Christopher and Josh McDowell scored 16, 12 and 11 points respectively for Jacksonville.

Whitehouse had high preseason aspirations quelled when star senior forward Ryan Walls — who also was the ace pitcher on the Wildcats’ state semifinalist baseball team last season — sustained a leg injury that ended his high school basketball career.

Walls intends to play basketball and baseball at Tyler Junior College next year, as was announced during pregame Senior Night ceremonies.

Without Walls, Whitehouse meandered to a 2-2 district record and took a backseat to Nacogdoches and Corsicana. It closed the campaign on a six-game winning streak, including victories against Nacogdoches and Corsicana in the backstretch.

“We played really bad one week and lost two games,” Kelley said. “We really re-evaluated ourselves on film. Our first game out of that was Jacksonville. Really, since then, we’ve been on a roll. We’ve finished with six wins in a row.

“You’re sitting there at 2-2 and you’re like, ‘We’re really on the outside looking in right now.’ To climb back into it and reel off six in a row shows the character of our kids and something I’m really proud of.”

Whitehouse was under the impression immediately after its game that Bryan Rudder will be its bi-district opponent in the Class 5A state playoffs. Rudder’s district had similar complexities playing out Tuesday.

Jacksonville will certainly face one-seed Waco University.

The window for bi-district games opens Monday and closes the next night.

“We’ve started to play harder,” Neal said. “Just pushing the ball. We’ve got to push the ball and run the floor in the playoffs. When we run the floor, nobody can run with us.”

Whitehouse guard Zach Parker drives through Jacsonville's Cameron High for two points in the Wildcats' 57-54 victory Tuesday.
Whitehouse guard Zach Parker drives through Jacsonville’s Cameron High for two points in the Wildcats’ 57-54 victory Tuesday.

Whitehouse 57, Jacksonville 54

District 17-5A
At Wildcat Arena, Whitehouse

Jacksonville              10       10      20     14   —    54
Whitehouse              14        17       6      20    —  57
Jacksonville (10-16) — Cameron High 16, D’montrey Christopher 12, Josh McDowell 11, Ashton Melton 9, Joshua Bush 4, Chris McCuin 2.
Whitehouse (22-9) — Javier Neal 17, Jackson Mahomes 13, Kaleb Ford-Dement 9, Zach Parker 8, Colby Duhon 5, Brandon Bullard 2, McKade Marquis 2, Jake Clemons 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS — Jacksonville: High (2), Melton. Whitehouse: Duhon.

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