TYLER -- Lufkin walked off the court slowly, heads hanging low.

The Panthers came so close to an upset victory against Rockwall on Monday in the 6A Region 2 bi-district game. But as Alec Grandstaff nailed a free throw for the Yellowjackets with with four seconds left, hope dissipated.

Lufkin's comeback fell just short, as the Panthers lost, 64-59 at Tyler Junior College.

"We just didn't have the defensive intensity in the first half," coach J.T. McManus said. "We gave up 40 points and I think we gave up 24 in the second half, which gave us a chance to get back in it. Down the stretch, we were 1-of-6 from the free throw line. You're not gonna make comebacks like that when you miss free throws. I was proud of our kids battling back to give us a chance, we just came up short."

Lufkin entered halftime trailing 41-30 after Samuell Williamson nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But the Panthers weren't deterred in the third quarter. Torrance Agnew scored the first seven points for Lufkin. The Panthers pulled as close as within three, but Rockwall scored the final four points of the quarter to extend its lead to seven.

"They closed out," McManus said. "The one on the 3, there's not much more we could do.  That's a 6-7 guard rising up. We had a hand in his face, he just made a great shot. Sometimes, the offense wins in that situation and that's what happened."

Lufkin charged back again in the fourth quarter. But when Chris Thompson, who led the Panthers with 14 points, fouled out with three minutes to go, hope began to wane.

A couple of minutes later, Bugg Thompson poked the ball away to start a fast break and kicked it out to Agnew. He made a layup with defenders trailing him to cut the lead to one with 1:06 left.

That was as close as the Panthers would get. Rockwall made its free throws down the stretch, and Lufkin was unable to capitalize on later opportunities, scoring just one more field goal before going on to lose.

McManus isn't making any excuses after a loss, but he still has pride in his team's effort. With plenty of players returning in 2019, he has no reason to expect anything but improvement.

"You're never proud of a loss," he said. "But you're proud of the fact that you came back. We talked about cutting it to six at the end of the third quarter. It was seven. We had a look at a 3 that almost went in that would have tied it up. We had a couple of opportunities to make plays and we didn't It wasn't because our kids weren't trying."

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