By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
The Tigers' last stand for a playoff spot ended with a gut-wreching loss Friday night in Tyler.
Nacogdoches pulled away in a tight game in the fourth quarter, and then survived a frantic Corsicana rally in the final two minutes as the Dragons survived for a 62-57 victory in the District 16-4A Fourth-Place Play-in Game at UT-Tyler.
The Tigers lost their last six games of the season to finish with a 21-12 record. It's the first time the Tigers have won 20 games since 1984-85, but a four-year playoff drought remains.
Still the Tigers had a 20-win season after winning a total of 19 games in Coach Don Newton's first two seaons in Corsicana.
"I'm proud of the state of the program," Tigers coach Don Newton said. "The kids have played their guts out all year. They have worked hard and invested and I couldn't be prouder."
The game had 13 lead changes in the first three quarters as the Dragons led 41-39 headed into the final eight minutes. Nacogdoches took off on a 6-0 run over two minutes early in the fourth quarter to take a 48-41 lead.
The Dragons eventually built their lead to 55-46 with 1:37 left in the game when the Tigers started their comeback. Dzifa Mallet, who had 26 points, made two free throws, Ralph Watts made a layup and Ernest McGhee had two more from the charity stripe to make it 56-52 Dragons with 43 seconds left in the game.
The Tigers then had a near steal by Mike Lewis on the sideline and the end of the game unraveled from there. Lewis was called for a hold, which gave Dragons guard Jeron Garrett a 1-and-1 opportunity with 30.5 seconds left. Then inexplicably, Tigers coach Don Newton was called for a technical foul for being out of the coaches box.
That turned a touch foul into a six-point trip for the Dragons as Mason Proctor made four free throws, and after the Tigers were forced to foul to get the ball back, Garrett made two more free throws to put away the game.
Corsicana couldn't put Nacogodoches away in the first half, even though the Tigers seemed to carry the play at both ends of the court. The Tigers led 10-7 with 2:42 left in the first quarter, but went scorelees for two and half minutes, and the Dragons' Christian Stokes made a 3-pointer, his only points of the game, to tie the game at 10-10.
The Tigers did take a 12-10 at the end of the first quarter on Mike Lewis' drive to the basket at the buzzer.
Tim Lang made a 3-pointer for a 20-17 lead with 3:56 left in the second quarter. But the Dragons responded again, even with two starters in foul trouble, going on an 8-2 run for a 25-22 lead.
The Tigers tied the score at 29-29 late in the first half on Mallet's two free throws with 2.9 seconds left in the half.
Proctor led the Dragons with 26 points. Nacogdoches (15-14) advances to play Arlington Seguin in the bi-district playoffs.
The Tigers had six chances to get one win to clinch a playoff spot, so they'll have to learn from the experience and close out their next opportunity to make the postseason.
"This loss and the collapse at the end of the year will take some time to get over," Newton said. "We will get over it however and regroup and learn and improve."
Nacogdoches 62, Corsicana 57
Corsicana 10 19 12 21 -- 57
Nacogdoches 12 17 10 18 -- 62
Corsicana -- Dzifa Mallet 26, Tim Lang 3, Mike Lewis 11, Ernest McChee 6, Lathan Carter 3, Jamaal Evans 6, Ralph Watts 2.
Nacogdoches -- Patrick Sanders 9, Kwa' Jones 8, Jeron Garrett 5, Christian Stokes 3, D'Ante Riggins 2, Mason Proctor 26, LJ Barnes 6, Kyle Winfield 3.
Records -- Corsicana 21-12, Nacogdoches 15-14.