Kountze fends off Palestine Westwood

Lions advance to regional quarterfinals to face Hempstead.

By Daniel Elizondo

Kountze proved why it’s the no. 4 team in the state in class 3A on Friday evening, thanks to a strong bench presence.

It took all it could to fend off a feisty Palestine Westwood team in the area round of the playoffs, and the Lions prevailed in a 82-75 victory in Lufkin.

The Lions’ game plan was quickly changed after foul trouble haunted the team, however, the win lifts Kountze (30-6) into the third round of the playoffs to face Hempstead (30-6) in the UIL Region III class 3A regional quarterfinals at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Kountze got into early foul trouble, and the second half drew concern for Head Coach Duane Joubert, needing his bench players against the Westwood defense that was causing problems.

“My guys showed a lot of character tonight,” Joubert said. “They could have easily thrown in the towel. But we just played through it and found a way to win.”

Sophomore shooting guard Teran Stanford got into early foul trouble, and the long range game was taken out of the equation for Kountze early on.

Still, the Lions managed to take a 13-point lead in the second quarter, however, Westwood went to the air to make a comeback.

Leading 33-20, Kountze suffered a turnover that led to a three-pointer by junior post Tray Hicks for Westwood.

After a missed lay up by Kountze guard Grayland Arnold, senior Sam Carlisle knocked down his second three-pointer of the game to pull Westwood to within 33-26 as a part of a 10-2 run by the Panthers.

Westwood pulled to within 33-30 of Kountze before Jaydon Cunigan’s dramatic offensive rebound of a Justin Harper miss followed by a put back to give Kountze a 35-30 lead.

Cunigan finished the game with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists.

But Westwood rode the back of Carlisle, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to give the Panthers its first lead of the game 36-35 with 2:01 in the second quarter.

Carlisle led all scorers with 30 points including six three-pointers in the game.

Cunigan ended the fireworks once again with a layup to give Kountze a 37-36 lead, but Westwood responded with a bucket of its own.

Kountze looked to gain control after junior forward Henry Barnes entered the game in place of Michael Cole, who was in foul trouble.

Barnes hit a layup to give Kountze a 39-41 lead, however, Westwood freshman Kollin Simon hit another three-pointer to extend the Panthers lead 41-39 in the waning moments of the second quarter.

Cunigan tied the game 41-41 after an assist from Arnold for the layup.

Panther’s post Danny Burns managed a layup at the halftime buzzer to give Westwood the momentum at the break 43-41.

In the third quarter, fouls hurt the Lions, making way for Westwood to take a 48-44 lead when Cole suffered his fourth foul of the game with 5:01 in the third.

Senior guard Harper stepped up his game and hit a three-pointer, and then recorded a steal that eventually led to a layup to give Kountze the spark and a 49-48 lead.

“We just had to keep calm,” Harper said. “Basketball is a game of runs. We just had to keep our head in it.”

Harper finished with 18 points and four assists.

Kountze extended its lead 56-51 after Stanford hit his first three-pointer of the game. He finished with eight of his 10 points in the third quarter.

Westwood remained to be a thorn in the side of the Lions and ended the third quarter with a three-pointer from Carlisle at the buzzer to tie the game 60-60 to go into the final period.

“It seemed like every one they were throwing up from the three land, they were making,” Joubert said. “We tried to go a little bit of man-to-man, but they went right by us.”

As a team, Westwood finished the game with 12 three-pointers.

In the fourth quarter, Kountze entered with its original starting five and slowly chipped away at the Panthers.

Kountze held on to a 7-point lead near the end of the fourth quarter, but Westwood pulled its way back in 74-70 after a three-pointer from D.J. Hicks with 1 minute remaining.

Arnold was fouled on the ensuing possession, but Westwood drove on the break for a quick layup to pull within 75-72 with 32 seconds left in the game.

Kountze made five of its next six free throw attempts to preserve the win.

Carlisle added a three-pointer in the final 20 seconds of the game, but fouled out when attempting to stop Arnold on the break.

Arnold finished as the leading scorer for Kountze with 20 points, 10 assists and six steals in the game.

Also for Kountze was Cole with eight points and five rebounds, and Dallion Edwards scoring five points.

Hicks and Simon were the other scorers for Westwood in double figures at 18 and 11 points respectively.

“If my guys just stick to the plan and listen to the coaches, we’ll be alright,” Joubert said. “We’ve been able to win state championships, and if they believe in us and do what we need to do – just play with character and heart – they are going to be successful."

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Photo above: Kountze guard Teran Stanford drives past Palestine Westwood guard Sam Carlisle - Photo by Daniel Elizondo

For more photos by Daniel Elizondo, click on the link below:


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