Staff photo by Christopher R. Vinn
By HAROLD WILSON
After Nacogdoches diminished an impressive beginning, John Tyler finished what it started.
The Lions lost all but one point off a double-digit first half lead, but regained speed down the stretch to end an up-and-down night with a sizeable margin in a 69-58 victory over Nacogdoches Tuesday at the Lions Den.
With it, JT won for the 12th consecutive game and improved to 16-0 in District 14-4A action over the last two years.
Fred Ross, a junior wing, poured in 17 points and Tyus Bowser, a junior post, scored 14 points to lead the Lions (13-5, 2-0 in 14-4A). Ross took over during a 15-4 run in the third, scoring eight points and assisting on a three-point play as JT went up by 12 points (44-32).
Not the final gap, but the style points, concerned JT coach Tony Pinson following the win. The Lions led 24-10 through one frame, but scored only five points in the second and saw its advantage cut to 29-28 early in the third.
“We came out ready and then we stopped playing defense,” Pinson said. “We were in it at the start and third quarter, but (for the most part) I didn’t think we were (mentally) in the game the whole night.”
JT’s lead peaked at 19 points after Greg Ward passed to Bowser for a layup inside to make it 64-45 with 3:25 remaining. Pinson emptied the bench shortly afterward, and Nacogdoches netted 13 of the final 18 points.
Senior forward Tra’Vion Horn helped the bench with 13 points, all but eight of JT’s backup production. Horn hit on six of seven shots and added four rebounds and a steal to give JT energy.
“The second group has to start playing better,” said Pinson, who inserted his starters back into the game with 23 seconds left. “I thought Horn played the best he had in a while. But if we’re going to go far, we have to be able to go at least 11 guys.”
Bowser, JT’s leading scorer at more than 14 points per game, picked up his third foul midway through the second period and Nacogdoches capitalized to outscore the Lions 16-5 during the second.
JT played better when running, totaling 20 fastbreak points — none in the second. JT turned the ball over 20 times, however, and Nacogdoches often capitalized with open treys, going 9 for 24 from 3-point range.
Austin Willeford scored 17 points to lead Nacogdoches, which never led. JT returns to action Friday at Pine Tree, a team Nacogdoches defeated by 19 points in the district opener. JT already owns six wins over of its seven district opponents, including a pair in tournament play.
During its current streak, JT has won each game by nine points or more. But Pinson wants more from a group which opened the season ranked No. 15 in Class 4A.
“I’m not happy at all with the way we played,” Pinson said. “But I guarantee we won’t play like this on Friday. I take the blame for that. I have to correct that.”
John Tyler 69, Nacogdoches 58
Nacogdoches 10 16 13 19 — 58
John Tyler 24 5 19 21 — 69
NACOGDOCHES — Demarcus Davis, 6; Tre Colston, 11; Austin Willeford, 17; K’Ante Riggins, 5; Mason Proctor, 5; Kenneth Caraway, 9; Kyle Winfield, 5. FG 21-48 FT 7-10.
JOHN TYLER — Darion Flowers, 8; Greg Ward, 5; Jordan Caldwell, 2; Fred Ross, 17; Keaunte Humber, 2; Caleb Willis, 4; Ken’Darrion Johnson, 2; Tra’Vion Horn, 13; Javonte Tramble, 2; Tyus Bowser, 14. FG 27-59 FT 13-18.
THREE-POINT GOALS — Nacogdoches 9-24 (Willeford 5, Caraway, Colston, Riggins, Winfield); John Tyler 2-10 (Ward, Willis).
REBOUNDS — Nacogdoches 26 (Caraway, Davis 5); John Tyler 36 (Flowers 7).
ASSISTS — Nacogdoches 8 (Garrett 3), John Tyler 15 (Ward 4).
TOTAL FOULS — Nacogdoches 18, John Tyler 9.
RECORDS — Nacogdoches 10-9 (1-1); John Tyler 13-5 (2-0).
NEXT UP — Friday: Whitehouse at Nacogdoches; John Tyler at Pine Tree.