The LaPoynor Flyers won the Class 2A Region III Tournament to advance to the UIL State Tournament in San Antonio. Team members include, from left, Assistant Coach Mark Driskell, Payton Parker, Josiah Young, Jackson Young, Mathew Driskell, Evan Almeida, Cooper Gracey, Dijuan Whitehead, Mann Scott, Daniel Scott, Cort Reid, Zade Howard, Casey Ruiz and Head Coach Jim Reid. Managers are Jonathan Estrada and Paden Splawn.

A trip to the state tournament for the LaPoynor Flyers wasn’t a surprise.

They expected to be there. But that doesn’t mean it was easy.

This is LaPoynor’s third time to reach the state tournament in four years. The Flyers have spent the entire season near the top of the Class 2A rankings and ended the regular season ranked No. 2 despite having seven losses, which is tied for the most of any team in the top 13 in the state and tied for the most of the four Class 2A state semifinal participants.

The losses weren’t a byproduct of a team heading in the wrong direction, though. It was a team with a goal to get to the top and wanting to challenge itself along the way.

“One of the things we did is we loaded up our pre-district schedule,” LaPoynor head coach Jim Reid said. “The seven games we lost were to playoff teams in bigger classifications. The extremely loaded schedule prepared us for a lot of things and helped with the ability to overcome adversity.”

The Flyers lost to Class 6A playoff team Sachse, Class 4A playoff team Athens, Class 4A playoff team Lindale, Class 3A regional semifinalist Lorena, Class 4A regional semifinalist Center, Class 3A state qualifier Lytle and Class 3A regional semifinalist Ponder. The Flyers also posted wins over The Colony, Frisco Lebanon Trail, Lakeview (Campti, Louisana), Tatum, Central Heights and San Antonio Cole, not to mention three wins over No. 6 Martin’s Mill, including 53-43 in the regional final. LaPoynor also had playoff wins over Lovelady (79-58), Dawson (85-41), Grapeland (88-74) and Timpson (68-57).

LaPoynor trailed going into the fourth quarter of the regional semifinal against Timpson and got behind 11-2 early in the regional final against Martin’s Mill and led 35-34 entering the fourth before scoring 11 straight.

“It speaks well to our experience,” Reid said. “It showed in that Martin’s Mill game and Friday too, we continued to fight. If you look at the end results, seeing double digits, on paper, it looks pretty easy. But knowing and living through it, it wasn’t It was a tough battle. These boys’ ability to overcome adversity and different players stepping up has been big.”

Nine of the current Flyers were on the team last year when they got to the state semifinals and fell to Clarendon, 69-60. Five of them — Cooper Gracey, Dijuan Whitehead, Evan Almeida, Mathew Driskell and Cort Reid — played in that game. So being back was an expectation, but that’s not the end goal.

“It’s definitely a different feeling compared to last year,” Coach Reid said. “The boys had a goal all year, not just to get here, but a goal to win it. Last year, we talked about getting here. This year, they are ready to take that step forward. We knew it would be extremely difficult.”

No. 2 LaPoynor (32-7) will take on No. 10 Flatonia (34-4) in the Class 2A semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio. No. 1 Lipan (36-1) will face No. 5 New Home (31-7) in the other semifinal at 8:30 a.m.

Two of Flatonia’s losses came to state-ranked East Texas teams Mount Pleasant Chapel Hill (62-28) and Timpson (59-43) in the Tenaha tournament. The Bulldogs also lost to Coverse JV (65-62) and Schulenburg (69-67).

“Watching a lot of film and talking to people, they have some size,” Reid said. “They have a 6-7 kid who plays on the wing and can move inside. They have a 6-4 post man who is extremely athletic and runs the floor well. They have an off-guard who is quick and can shoot the basketball. They have a strong point guard who does a good job of handling the basketball, and they have another guard who scores well who appears to be the leader of the team. They’re extremely talented. We know we have a challenge in front of us.”

Lipan’s lone loss of the year was to Timpson (45-42) in the Martin’s Mill tournament. Lipan followed that with a 65-28 win in the Martin’s Mill third-place game against New Home, which is the Indians’ opponent in the state semifinals. New Home also lost to Martin’s Mill, 61-53 in overtime, in that tournament.

The winners of Friday’s semifinals will meet in the Class 2A championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio.

This is LaPoynor’s 11th trip to the state tournament with championships in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2020.

Players for the Flyers are Raiders are sophomore guard Payton Parker, sophomore guard Mann Scott, junior forward Jackson Young, sophomore guard Josiah Young, senior guard Mathew Driskell, sophomore guard Cort Reid, sophomore forward Zade Howard, junior forward Casey Ruiz, senior forward Evan Almeida, senior forward Cooper Gracey, junior center Daniel Scott and senior center Dijuan Whitehead. The head coach is Jim Reid, and assistant coach is Mark Driskell. Support staff includes managers Johnathan Estrada, Jericho Young and Paden Splawn; and statisticians Brooke Reid, Jace Reid, Sydney Reid and Marsha Mills.

TWITTER: @BrandonOSports

Sports Writer

Brandon Ogden is in his 23rd year covering high school sports in East Texas and has been in Tyler for the past five years. Follow on Twitter: @BrandonOSports

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