JACKSONVILLE -- John Tyler looked a little more like the team that won the Dallas ISD Holiday Invitational and less like the team that scraped into the postseason by winning a district fourth-place game in its 46-39 victory Monday against first-seed Lufkin in the state playoffs.

It wasn't a perfect outing by any stretch of the imagination, but the team that gave the region its best hope of making a deep postseason run back in December survived the Class 6A bi-district round and will indeed venture out of the area for meaningful games.

"We're just looking at it like it's a new season for us," Lady Lions head coach Carlesa Dixon said. "We don't dwell on our record. We don't dwell on the losses or the slump we fell into. It's a brand new season and, at this point in the season, my team just wants it more right now. Now we've got to keep that going."

Dixon's squad will face Garland Lakeview Centennial in the area round of the postseason. The coach was not sure of the arrangements for the contest because Centennial was still playing Richardson while John Tyler (20-12) celebrated its victory at John Alexander Gym on the former Lon Morris campus.

Lufkin (22-10) -- which won District 12-6A and was supposed to be rewarded with a team standing on its last leg -- endured eight lead changes before its own promising season came to an end.

You name a pertinent statistical category aside from shooting percentage, the Lady Panthers either won by a negligible amount, lost decisively or tied.

The Lady Lions recorded 20 offensive rebounds to Lufkin's eight. That resulted in 21 second-chance points for John Tyler to the Lady Panthers' four points.

Lufkin lost the sheer rebounding battle, 46-28. That trend helped the Lady Lions into the double bonus in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

John Tyler made 16 of 31 free throws. The Lady Panthers shot 15-for-29 from the line.

Both teams forced 12 steals and combined for 33 turnovers. Lufkin committed just one less giveaway.

It all added up in a theoretical upset.

"We were just trying to be aggressive, especially on the offensive end," Dixon said. "We wanted to make them foul, especially when we got into the one-and-one situation. We tried to take every advantage."

Lufkin lost the lead for good with 5:26 remaining in the fourth quarter, but it was a one-possession game at the 2:30 mark.

Stephen F. Austin signee Alyssa Mayfield went coast-to-coast for the last of her five points to put two-possession pressure on the Lady Panthers. She saw more minutes on the bench than usual due to three first-half fouls.

Kaleon Grant came up with a defensive board on Lufkin's second shot attempt its next trip up the floor and Daz'Monique Johnson made it a three-possession game, 43-36, with 1:33 left off her own offensive rebound.

The Lady Panthers had to enter foul mode at that point and gave up two free throws each time they stopped the clock. True to the game's form, John Tyler hit three of six freebies down the final stretch.

Destini Whitehead, who propelled the Lady Lions into the real postseason with a bullet inbound pass for Mayfield's buzzer beater in overtime of the district play-in game, enjoyed the best individual performance. She recorded 14 points, 12 total rebounds, three steals and blocked one shot.

Johnson scored 11 points.

Kurstyn Harder led the Lady Panthers with 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in the last game of her sophomore season.

Lufkin's future appears bright in spite of the outcome. Underclassmen scored 31 of the team's 39 points in the contest and only four of 15 players from its playoff roster graduate in May.

John Tyler, meanwhile, has the opportunity to be the alpha and omega of Lakeview Centennial's season. Centennial defeated the Lady Lions, 70-62, in the season opener.

"We definitely know how they play," Dixon said. "We're familiar with their team. We just have to get back and prepare."

John Tyler 46, Lufkin 39

Class 6A Bi-District Round
At John Alexander Gym, Jacksonville

John Tyler           18         6      10     12   --   46
Lufkin                 13         9        8       9    --  39
John Tyler (20-12) -- Destini Whitehead 14, Daz'Monique Johnson 11, Kaleon Grant 9, Alyssa Mayfield 5, J'Kimbria Criss 4, Unlisted Player 2, Unlisted Player 1.
Lufkin (22-10) -- Kurstyn Harder 12, Alexis Hood 8, Jakayla Suell 8, Mycah McDonald 6, KeKe Cleveland 4, Ivie Massie 1.
THREE-POINT GOALS -- John Tyler: Whitehead (2).


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