Robert E. Lee coach Alan Johnston admits his team’s style of play is not pleasing to watch.
But it has been effective and was again for the Red Raiders on Friday night in a 39-35 win over North Mesquite at Varsity Gymnasium.
Despite being held without a field goal for more than eight minutes of the first half, the Red Raiders did enough to get in front of the Stallions and stay there.
“Our kids understand that they have to outwork who they go against,” Johnston said. “I told the guys at the start of the year if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to play blue collar basketball; we’re not going to have highlight films because we’re not that kind of team.”
The win moved Lee (17-7) to 4-2 in District 12-5A, its best league record in six years. North Mesquite fell to 2-4 in district.
North Mesquite was led by 10 points from Mike Williams and nine from Norman Alexander as the Stallions hit six 3-pointers in their loss.
The Red Raiders received 10 points apiece from Taylor Tankersley and Will Dougherty with senior Justin DeSalvo providing back-to-back game-clinching plays.
With Lee clinging to a 37-33 lead with just over a minute on the clock, a turnover gave North Mesquite a chance to cut into that. Tankersley got a piece of a 3-point attempt, but the ball went straight to a North Mesquite player. But DeSalvo reacted quickly and rejected an attempted layup while also securing the ball.
DeSalvo then scored Lee’s final two points off a pass from Tucker Boyd that beat North Mesquite’s zone trap and sealed the victory.
Dougherty, who also had four rebounds, said this was a game REL had to have.
“We knew we had to come out and play tough against them and we did,” Dougherty said. “I wasn’t nervous because we are a good defensive team and we’d be fine until our (offense got going).”
Lee was held to six points in the first period and leading scorer Tankersley was scoreless in the first half.
Despite that, the Red Raiders were able to do enough to lead 20-18 at the break.
The third quarter began with a steal and layup by Tankersley followed by a turnaround jumper from the senior swingman, who also finished with seven rebounds and four blocks.
“We did a good job in the first half making it tough for Tankersley,” North Mesquite coach P.J. Randall said. “I thought Lee came out in the second half (and he got going).”
The game was still tight entering the fourth period as Lee stayed in front, 30-26, thanks to a rebound tip-in from Dougherty.
A basket by North Mesquite’s Leslie Davis cut it to 30-28. REL needed an offensive lift and Tankersley came up with the biggest shots of the night.
A timeout by Johnston led to Tankersley getting open behind the arc. The Red Raiders had missed eight 3-point attempts in the second half, but Tankersley drained it for a 33-28 lead.
North Mesquite answered with a trey by Norman Alexander to pull the Stallions within a point, 34-33, but Tankersley again responded. This time with a hand in his face, the senior let loose from the top of the circle and was good again from 3-point land.
“That was a big shot; they needed that,” Randall said. “It was a one-point game and he hits that. He’s a good player who stepped up for them at a key time.”
Robert E. Lee 39, North Mesquite 35
North Mesquite 10 8 8 9 — 35
Robert E. Lee 6 14 8 11 — 39
NORTH MESQUITE — Mike Williams, 10; Markus Alonzo, 3; Norman Alexander, 9; Driek Whitted, 4; Thomas Oberg, 0; Stevin Moses, 3; Ryan Bradley, 2; Leslie Davis, 4. FG: 13-47. FT: 3-5.
ROBERT E. LEE — Jack Calhoun, 0; Austin Fleet, 0; Luke Derfus, 5; Christian Boone, 0; Taylor Tankersley, 10; Will Dougherty, 10; Caleb Johnston, 5; Tucker Boyd, 5; Justin DeSalvo, 4. FG: 15-32. FT: 5-9.
THREE POINT GOALS — NM (6-16): Williams (2), Alonzo, Alexander (3). REL (4-16): Derfus, Tankersley (2), Boyd.
RECORDS — North Mesquite 9-13 (2-4); Robert E. Lee 17-7 (4-2).
NEXT UP — Robert E. Lee at Rockwall, 7 p.m. Tuesday.