MARSHALL — John Tyler pulled through in the clutch to keep its playoff drive alive.
With the score knotted late, Tiaka Lee drove the lane and dished to LaTifah Rainey for the go-ahead bucket with eight seconds left, helping John Tyler pull out a 52-48 win.
Nola Jackson intercepted a long pass on the following inbound, and iced the game with a pair of free throws with three seconds showing.
JT (24-8) moves on to the area round to face state-ranked West Mesquite, following its first playoff victory in four years, and just the second in eight seasons. The area-round game is tentatively set for Friday in Wills Point, with the time yet to be determined.
Third-year JT coach Mike Smith designed the game-winning play in the huddle, one Lee ran as drawn up.
“After that timeout the kids executed that give-and-go (between Tiaka and LaTifah) well,” Smith said. “Nola made a big steal and we were able to seal it. It was a great ball game. The victory was sweeter than honey.”
Rainey finished with 12 points and 20 rebounds, despite battling foul trouble most of the way.
Lee led JT with 22 points, with eight coming in the fourth. Her one assist, setting up Rainey for the game-winner, mattered most in the end.
Montiria Aldridge topped Texas High (21-10) with 13 points.
The Lady Lions trailed by four with less than two minutes left after Chanell Hayes (12 points, five rebounds) attacked the bucket for two points.
JT worked its way back into a tie off free throws by Lee and Jackson to make it a two-point game. Jackson (eight points, 10 rebounds, three steals) then rebounded a shot and spotted Lee for a transition bucket to bring the teams even with 1:26 left.
Texas High went scoreless the final 1:58 and suffered the misfortune of three starters fouling out of the game.
Texas High shot 23 percent from the field, making more than half its buckets (eight of 15) from beyond the arc as JT stuffed the lane.
After trailing by eight at halftime, Texas High heated up with four 3-pointers in the third to take a one-point lead (37-36) into the fourth.
JT’s defense played big in the first half, holding Texas High to a 5-for-27 shooting effort, including 1-for-15 inside the 3-point line.
Rainey recorded four points and 13 points before sitting the final 5:03 of the first half, with JT ahead three.
Lee picked it up in her absence, drilling a trey, and ending the scoring in the second with a three-point play after dribbling through traffic, falling and banking in a shot to put JT up 24-16 going into the midway point.
After winning nine straight games by double figures, JT hung tough to record its 10th consecutive win.
“The girls really wanted to get a win in the playoffs,” Smith said. “For a minute we had some doubt but they were able to come back and win.”
John Tyler 52, Texas High 48
Class 4A Bi-District Playoff
At Ornelas Gym, East Texas Baptist University
Texas High 1062111—48
John Tyler 12 121216—52
TEXAS HIGH — Montiria Aldridge, 13; Chanell Hayes, 12; Tierra Cooper, 11; Jalissa Trotter, 3; Angel Crump, 3; Shar Noel, 2; Briana Murphy, 4.
JOHN TYLER — Tiaka Lee, 22; Quaneshia Johnson, 7; Amia Wickware, 2; Donishia Rouege, 1; Nola Jackson, 8; LaTifah Rainey, 12.
FIELD GOALS — Texas High 15-65; John Tyler 16-47. FREE THROWS — Texas High 10-19; John Tyler 16-30. THREE-POINT GOALS — Texas High 8-22 (Aldridge 4, Cooper 2, Crump, Hayes); John Tyler 4-16 (Johnson 2, Lee 2). REBOUNDS — Texas High 27 (Trotter 11); John Tyler 46 (Rainey 20). ASSISTS — Texas High 11 (Cooper 5); John Tyler 8 (Jackson 3).
RECORDS — Texas High 21-10; John Tyler 24-8.
NEXT UP — Texas High season complete; John Tyler vs. West Mesquite, Friday in Class 4A area round in Wills Point.