NACOGDOCHES – The Palestine Wildcats entered Tuesday's Bi-District contest with the understanding “they're not a typical third-seed team.”
And they delivered in a 60-54 win over District 20-4A's district runner-up Hudson Hornets.
Playoff intensity was felt from the start of this 4A-Region III battle inside Nacogdoches High School. The Wildcats raced out to an 8-3 lead before Hudson's Cathcart splashed his second three-pointer to cut the lead to a single possession.
Palestine rallied off five straight points that was highlighted by a Dreyon Barrett and-1 conversion to end the quarter.
Up 13-10 at the top of the second, Barrett scored the first four points for Palestine, but Hudson kept responding until a breakaway layup put them up 18-17.
Quinton Cook quickly regained the lead for his team on a tough contested layup. Cook continued to dominate the paint. He caught a missed three from Ben Wages and pogo sticked back up, forcing Hudson to foul. Cook sunk both shots at the line.
Both side exchanged baskets over the next 1:30 until another fast break layup put the Hornets up 24-23. Though their offense appeared to keep clicking, Hudson had no answer for Cook down low. The senior forward found his way through traffic before finishing with contact at the rim. Enoch Fatade pulled a smooth jumper from the left wing to give them a 27-24 lead.
Once again, the Hornets returned with a three before half to even the score at the break.
The third quarter proved to be similar to the prior two periods. Hudon's Rhodes got the scoring going at the top of the quarter to give them a 29-27 lead. Cook responded with another powerful finish at the rim.
Next, it was Eric Carthen with a driving layup to retake the lead for Palestine. Hudson was sent to the line on the next possession, but split the attempts. The Wildcats had an opportunity to extend their lead until Carthen lost the ball out of bounds leading to a Hornets basket on the ensuing possession.
Carthen shook off his mistake and pulled a wing three to hand the lead back to Palestine, 34-32. Neither team could stretch their lead more than four points in their favor. With two minutes left until the fourth, Carthen found Cook on a fastbreak where he pulled a mid-range shot that rattled home.
Down 40-36, the Hornets put up an 8-2 run to end the quarter that shifted the lead to 44-42, Hudson.
The final quarter began poorly for the Wildcats. Enoch Fatade went up for a contested jumper and quickly contorted his body to find an unaware Barrett on the right block. The ball bounced off him into a Hudson's players arms. However, as they attempted to push the ball down court it sailed over their teammate's head out-of-bounds.
Enoch didn't let their second opportunity to take the lead slide by. He splashed home his first three of the game giving Palestine a 45-44 lead.
Hudson's Rhodes paid him back with an and-1 attempt and conversion on the opposite end.
Enoch returned the gesture with a hard take and foul on their end. His free throw makes sat the score at 47-all with 6:15 left.
The third lead change of the quarter came off an Eric Carthen pull-up jumper, which was short-lived. Hudson scored on back-to-back baskets that gave them a 51-49 lead and forced Palestine to burn a timeout with 4:30 left.
Fresh out of the pause in action, Enoch immediately attacked the basket. His shot rolled of the rim, but was recovered by Barrett. Barrett missed his first two tries at the rim, but was successful on the third and forced a foul. He drained it at the line to give Palestine a 52-51 advantage.
Palestine went on to outscore Hudson 8-3 in the final minutes to clinch their Bi-District championship. The Wildcats will play Waxahachie Life Friday at Corsicana High School at 7 p.m.