By JUSTIN RAINS
During its great mid-season run that saw the Elkhart boys’ basketball team go from outsider to playoff lock, the team built up a chemistry and a style of play that suited its pieces.
In the final game of the regular season, the warm-up game against LaPoynor and Monday’s playoff opener, the Elks were without junior Jeffrey Wilson.
They lost all three games.
The Elks season came to an end here Monday at Shands Gymnasium at Angelina College, as they fell to Newton, 70-51.
“I don’t know if it hurt us much athletically, but we got into a rhythm and now we’re out of rhythm,” EHS coach Ryan Blackmon said. “But, the guys that we have played their rear-ends off. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of senior leaders.”
The game was close for much of the first half, but with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter, Newton made its move.
Leading 28-24, the Eagles went on a 7-0 run, anchored by a three-point play from Kevin Shorter in the middle, to extend the lead to 35-24 with under a minute remaining in the half.
Elkhart’s Luke Hollingsworth hit a free throw to end the run, but that was effectively the beginning of the end.
Newton kept the Elks at bay the entire second half, and the game was never really close after that 7-0 run.
“We were more mentally worn down than physically,” Blackmon said. “Not being able to get into an offensive rhythm hurt us more than anything.”
Jacob Cheatham led the Elks in his final high school game, scoring 24 points. But, he was only one of five Elks to score in the game, and the only in double-figures.
Both Cole Bridges and Hollingsworth — also both seniors — each had nine, with Hollingsworth grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Brian Johnson finished with seven points and five rebounds.
Newton’s Kevin Shorter led all scorers with 26 to go along with his six rebounds. Roney Elam added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles, while Troy Peagues had 13 and five.
The Elks end the season at 14-14, having made the program’s first playoff appearance in eight years.
Newton moves on to face second-ranked White Oak in the area round.
WESTWOOD 65, LaPoynor 57
The Westwood boys’ basketball team got double-digit scoring from four different players in a 65-57 warm-up win over LaPoynor Monday.
J.J. Turner had 15 in the win, while Chris Thompson added 12 and both Josh Denby and Dra Ross had 10 in the victory for the Panthers (22-10). L.J. Hutchison added nine.
It was a nice bounce-back win for Westwood, who fell to Oakwood, 67-53, Saturday at UT-Tyler’s Playoff Preview event.
The Panthers only trailed by three at the half, but got outscored 22-9 in the third quarter as Oakwood put the game away.
Ross had 23 in that loss for Westwood, while Denby had 15.
Westwood will play the winner of the Troup/Jefferson bi-district game in the area round. Details are yet to be determined.
Franklin 80, CAYUGA 64
CAYUGA 73, High Point Academy 67 (Sat.)
For the first time since Jan. 3, the Cayuga boys’ basketball didn’t come out of a game on top.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats fell to Class 2A No. 12 Franklin Monday, 80-64, in the two team’s final warm-up games before the area round.
Cayuga trailed by only three heading into the final quarter, but got outscored by the Lions 26-13 in the final frame.
Preston Anderson led the Wildcats with 23 points in the loss, while Chandler Rigdon had 19 and Deon Shofner added 12.
The Wildcats managed to overcome a halftime deficit and hand Arlington’s High Point Academy its first loss of the season Saturday, 73-67, at the UT-Tyler Patriot Center.
Anderson had 31 in that win, while Shofner added 22 and Rigdon had 14.
Cayuga opens up the playoffs in Buffalo at 8 p.m. Friday against Mart. That game will follow an area round game between Kerens and Waco Rappaport Academy, which will start at 6 p.m.
H.S. GIRLS BASKETBALL
China Spring 79, PALESTINE 44 (Fri.)
The Palestine girls’ basketball team fell to China Spring Friday, 79-44, ending the Ladycats postseason run in the area round.
The Ladys were outscored by the Lady Cougars in all four quarters of the game, but still trailed by 11 heading into the fourth before China Spring exploded for 28 in the frame, holding the Ladycats to only five.
PHS coach Joseph Baker called it one of his teams “worst outings” defensively.
The Ladycats wrap up the season with a 12-15 overall record, but return all but two players next season.
China Spring moves on to face Palestine’s 19-3A rival Fairfield today in the regional quarterfinals.
Tatum 55, WESTWOOD 38 (Fri.)
A rough stretch in the middle quarters did in the Westwood girls’ basketball team in the area round Friday.
The Lady Panthers only trailed No. 18 Tatum by three heading into the second quarter, but from there until the fourth quarter the Lady Eagles outscored Westwood 34-14, effectively putting things away.
Natali Muniz led Westwood with 13 points, while adding six rebounds. Mi’Kayla Benson added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Shavon Nauls, Nekeisha Hall and Jemelia Thomas each finished with four points.
Marialle Boles finished with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Westwood finishes the season 18-14, while Tatum moves on to face Crockett in the regional quarterfinals.