EUSTACE -- Naysayers were ready for a piece of Whitehouse as soon as it pulled off its thrilling bi-district win earlier in the week.

The Wildcats did indeed fall to Lancaster in Friday's area round playoff game at Eustace High School, 79-51, but there certainly have been worse performances recorded against the defending Class 5A state champions.

The state's third-ranked 5A team was not able to fully escape its opposition's streaky offense until halfway through the third quarter.

"I don't think we played very well in the first half," Whitehouse head coach Brent Kelley said. "I told the kids, 'We're down 16, but it could be a lot worse.' We got the bonus the whole second quarter, missed some free throws. To only be down 16 points at that point, I felt good about that because we didn't do some of the little things right in the first half that could have possibly kept it a single-digit game."

Colby Duhon led the Wildcats with 20 points Friday in the area round loss to Lancaster.

The Wildcats (21-12) ultimately got to within 12 points on a Colby Duhon 3-pointer before Lancaster (31-2) pulled away.

Nothing seemed impossible considering Whitehouse recorded 11 3-pointers in its past game against Texas High.

Lancaster's mix of three college basketball prospects, an all-around size advantage and state level experience helped the team ride out the threat. The lead was back to 15 points at the end of the third quarter and a 7-0 fourth quarter start sealed the underdog's fate.

Whitehouse struggled to hold a favorable margin of rebounds on its defensive side of the floor. Lancaster got second shot looks on 15 occasions in meaningful time. The Wildcats won 19 battles, thanks in large part to Javier Neal's eight defensive boards.

In contrast, Kelley's squad only got seven second chance opportunities. Lancaster won 12 of a possible 19 rebounds on its defensive side with 6-10 forward Nate Morris, a Mississippi State signee, guarding the backboard.

Both teams made major substitutions with about two minutes to play in a 71-50 contest, which allowed the disparities to level off.

Lancaster also forced six turnovers as part of Whitehouse's 11 total giveaways while only committing six turnovers of its own.

Duhon scored a team-best 20 points. Ryan Walls was the only other Wildcats player in double figures with 11 points.

Louisiana Tech forward signee Jakolby Pemberton scored 21 points to lead Lancaster. Tahjon Starks and UTEP guard commitment Deon Barrett added 16 and 15 points, respectively.

"They can hurt you in so many ways," Kelley said. "They can shoot it, they have size and they have people that can get to the rim. When you have those three things, it makes it tough to guard. They hurt us on the boards."

Lancaster advanced to play Mansfield Lake Ridge in the regional quarterfinal round.

Whitehouse will graduate seven of the 14 players on its playoff roster in May. Duhon, Walls and Neal all will be a part of the team next season.

"I'm happy for the seniors," Kelley said. "We got into the playoffs. Once we got in, we talked about not being satisfied. We did that Tuesday night. We got the seniors back into the playoffs and got them a playoff win. Then, we had a lot of young guys that played a lot of minutes. This is great experience moving forward."

Javier Neal tries to thread the needle to Colby Duhon. This attempt was successful for two points in the first quarter.

No. 3 Lancaster 79, Whitehouse 51

Boys Class 5A Area Round Playoff Game
At Eustace High School

Whitehouse          9      13      20     9    --    51
Lancaster             21     17    18    23    --   70

WHITEHOUSE (21-12) -- Colby Duhon 20, Ryans Walls 11, Justus Carnahan 7, Zach Parker 6, McKade Marquis 6, Isiah Clark 2, Ashton Melton 2.
LANCASTER (31-2) -- Jakolby Pemberton 21, Tahjon Starks 16, Deon Barrett 15, Demarcus Hurd 6, Jordan Castillo 4, Ike Durham 4, Nate Morris 4, Darious Anderson 3, Alecdale Robertson 2.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- Whitehouse: Duhon (3), Walls (3), Marquis (2). Lancaster: Barrett (3), Hurd (2).