HUNTSVILLE — The upset-minded Life Waxahachie Mustangs made plenty of school history in their deep run in the Class 4A Region III basketball playoffs. The final hurdle to the state tournament, though, was too high for the team. Literally.
With a trio of big men 6-7 or taller and constant pressure defense, Class 4A No. 1-ranked Houston Yates forced 32 Life turnovers, and the longtime basketball powerhouse rolled to a 117-80 win in the Region III championship game at Sam Houston State University’s Johnson Coliseum.
Senior guard Vernon Johnson, who made the all-tournament team, led the Mustangs in scoring with 30 points, 16 in the first quarter alone.
“Considering all the injuries we had last year, we came back strong and proved a lot of people wrong this year,” Johnson said.
Yates’ Rubin Jones was named the tournament Most Valuable Player after finishing the game with 33 points, eight steals, five rebounds and three blocks. Elijah Elliott made three 3-pointers en route to 23 points, and Latrell Moore had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists off the bench. Antwon Norman chipped in 15 points for the Lions, who led 111-63 early in the fourth quarter before coach Greg Wise inserted the third string.
Yates (26-4) fell behind 4-1, but from there the Lions broke the game open. Yates led 30-20 at the end of the first quarter and then used a 28-point second quarter to take a 58-36 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, 3-point baskets from Blaine Stacy and Derwin Lewis cut the deficit to 65-47, but from there the Lions turned on the jets and left the Mustangs behind.
“What these guys did this year is a huge accomplishment. It talks about their toughness and I’m blessed to coach these guys,” Life head coach Eddie Berumen said.
Stacy scored 15 points with eight made free throws and Gage Mayfield chipped in eight points for Life (31-10), which advanced to the regional championship game by beating Silsbee, 75-66, on Friday to avenge last year’s region semifinal loss.
In Friday’s game, Johnson attacked Silsbee all over the floor, pouring in 39 points and pulling down 19 rebounds.
With a two-point lead at halftime, the Mustangs got 16 points from Johnson in the third quarter alone to go up by nine points to start the fourth quarter. Silsbee (23-14) battled back to tie the game at 61 before a late push by the Mustangs sealed the outcome in the final minutes.