Entering the regular-season finale against district champion The Woodlands, the Lufkin Panthers needed a win simply to insure itself of a spot in the postseason. Two weeks and three wins later, the Panthers are a single win away from punching a ticket to the regional tournament.
The Panthers overcame a first half in which they only scored 15 points as they turned it on late on their way to a 56-48 win over Richardson Berkner in a Class 6A Region II Quarterfinal matchup at Tyler’s Wagstaff Gymnasium on Friday night.
The Panthers’ second playoff win came on a night in which they struggled to find the basket in the opening half. Berkner was coming off an upset win over sixth-ranked Lakeview Centennial on Tuesday night but was unable to take advantage of some cold Lufkin shooting thanks to a swarming Pack defense.
Courtnee Garcia led the Pack with 10 points. Kordell, Rodgers Chris Thompson, Kevonte Hurts and Jeremiah Davis added nine points apiece. Nick Wilson and JaCourtney Calvin had four each and James Jefferson added two.
The Panthers found themselves in an early hole, trailing 14-10 after a quarter.
Lufkin didn’t find it any easier in the second quarter as it scored just five points and found itself in a 22-15 hole headed into the halftime break.
The Panthers quickly found themselves behind by double digits in the third quarter before finally finding its offensive range in taking a lead late in the third quarter.
Lufkin eventually trailed by a single point at 32-31 headed into the final eight minutes.
It was a back-and-forth fourth quarter for the teams as they were in a 48-48 deadlock headed into the final two minutes of the game.
The Panthers then finished with a flurry, scoring eight points while holding Berkner to none in the final minutes. That left the Panthers with the eight-point win.
Lufkin has another tough test ahead of it as it will now prepare to take on fourth-ranked Dallas Skyline.
Dallas Skyline (31-1), the state’s fourth-ranked team, advanced to the regional quarterfinals in impressive fashion by routing Lufkin’s district rival Conroe, 71-48, in Palestine on Friday night.
A time and site for that game is still to be determined.