Elkhart's Landry Mays, Westwood's Bri'Darian Hunt

Elkhart's Landry Mays (left) strips the ball from Westwood's Bri'Darian Hunt (11) during a District 20-3A boys' basketball game on Tuesday. Westwood nipped Elkhart, 42-41. Cade Starr (10) also is photographed.

FRANKSTON — The Elkhart High School boys' basketball program hasn't been in this position in seven seasons.

Meanwhile, Westwood will look to draw on recent experience from last year's run to the Conference 3A-Region III quarterfinals.

Those are the storylines heading into tonight's District 20-3A play-in game as the Panthers face the Elks at 6:30 p.m. at Frankston High School gymnasium.

Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for students.

“This is a big game for us,” said Elkhart head coach Tom Spears, who has guided the Elks' 10-win improvement in his second season piloting the team, “to have a play-in game to make it.”

And the fact Elkhart plays Westwood only intensifies the fervor for this game, one of several scheduled this weekend with playoff implications on the line.

“To be in this position is a blessing,” said Corey Krampen, who came to Westwood from the Houston metro area last summer. “We have an opportunity to play another game.”

Krampen noted that more than half of the boys' basketball teams won't be playing tonight — with their seasons over this past Tuesday.

The Westwood and Elkhart boys' basketball teams have differing strengths.

The Panthers are noted more for their zippy guard play. Meanwhile, the Elks have a pair of dynamic post performers.

Westwood (13-20) will start point guard Bri'Darian Hunt, with Mario Black at shooting guard, Jaren Turner as a swing player along with forward Ka'Donte Watkins and center Riley Thieme.

Elkhart (16-17) counters with one of 20-3A's best centers in Ky Thomas, plus power forward Messiah Birdow and a trio of guards that are all playmakers — R.J. Moore, Cade Starr and Landry Mays.

Birdow scored 29 points and Thomas 23 as Elkhart earned a 78-76 overtime victory in Elkhart back on Jan. 11.

Less than two weeks ago, Westwood returned the favor as the Panthers clipped the Elks 42-41 — with Black dropping in 18 points and Hunt nine. Both Hunt and Black canned pivotal 3-pointers in the victory.

Turner has been a “father figure” in practice in this week, discussing the importance of tonight's game. Jaren, last year's district most valuable player, was a big reason why Westwood won 33 games during the 2017-18 season.

“He's stepped up in a leadership role more than ever,” Krampen said. “He's been telling the players what to expect, and he's also helped me a ton.”

Meanwhile, a game with playoff implications is new for Elkhart, and the Elks also don't have as much depth as Westwood.

But, that's why they play the game, right?

Ryan Blackmon, Elkhart's current track and field coach, was the Elks' skipper the last time they made it this far.

“It's going to be nerve-racking for us coaches, but it's also exciting because we play Westwood,” Spears said.

Also tonight

Slocum's boys (17-12) will play Groveton for the right to be third place in District 20-2A, with tip-off set for 6 p.m. at Wells High School.

Palestine's boys (24-3) travel to the Metroplex for a Whataburger Preview warm-up game, with tip-off at 7:30 p.m. at Mansfield Legacy High School.

The game features Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' Conference 3A No. 8 Grandview (22-10) and the 4A No. 12 Wildcats — so expect a competitive affair.

On the girls' side, LaPoynor opens the Conference 1A-Region IV playoffs playing Blum at 6 p.m. tonight at Corsicana High School.

The Lady Flyers are No. 3 in 1A, with a record of 27-7.

Neches' girls (23-9) will play Bartlett — also in the 1A-Region IV area round — with game time set for 7 p.m. at North Zulch.

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