CLEBURNE — The Life Waxahachie boys are returning to a familiar place — the basketball region semifinals.
Vernon Johnson led the way with 20 points, fellow senior Jaden Epkin added 19 points and the Class 4A No. 20-ranked Mustangs advanced to the Class 4A Region III tournament on Tuesday night with a 62-47 victory over No. 13 Waco Connally at Cleburne High School.
The Mustangs (30-9) were set on Friday to travel to Sam Houston State University’s Johnson Coliseum in Huntsville, where they were scheduled for a rematch against Silsbee in the late game at 8 p.m. Silsbee ended the Mustangs’ season last year at the same exact point in the playoffs.
Unranked China Spring and state No. 1 Houston Yates were to meet in the early game, with the region championship set for 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Mustangs enjoyed as much as a 20-point lead on Johnson’s transition layup midway through the fourth before Connally made a late push to get within nine in the final 2:10. But Life locked down on defense to keep the Cadets off the scoreboard and Johnson sealed the game at the charity stripe, making 4 of 8.
Gage Mayfield, the buzzer-beating hero of last Friday night’s game against Palestine, added 11 points for Life, and Blaine Stacy finished with eight points. Jarius Morrison and Derwin Lewis rounded out the scoring with two points each.
The Cadets (21-6) took an early 3-0 lead to start the game, but Life went on a 14-0 run, with 10 of those points scored by Johnson, en route to a 14-7 lead at the end of one. Connally, though, battled back to within 23-20 at the half.
In the third, the Mustangs began to open up some breathing room. Epkin scored 11 points in the period, including a 3-pointer, and Lewis’ basket made the lead double digits for the first time. Life took a 42-30 lead into the final eight minutes.
The Mustangs will be making their fourth region tournament appearance in the last five seasons, and their seventh all-time.
1A Region IV: Laneville 64, Milford 53
BUFFALO — The Milford Bulldogs’ season came to an end Tuesday night with a loss to 1A No. 12-ranked Laneville in a Region IV quarterfinal clash at Buffalo High School.
The Bulldogs finish with a final record of 16-5, winning the District 25-1A championship.
Laneville (24-6) advanced to a scheduled Friday night matchup against No. 11 Leggett at Austin’s Toney Burger Gymnasium in the 1A Region IV semifinals. State No. 1 LaPoynor and No. 4 Waelder are the other two semifinalists and will meet in the early semifinal.