All night the free throw line had been unkind to the Kerens Bobcats, but when it was needed most the charity stripe was their friend.
Sophomore guard Nate Bates swished two free throws with 1.7 seconds left to lift Kerens to a 59-57 win over LaPoynor on Tuesday in a Class 1A Division I Region III quarterfinal at Wagstaff Gymnasium.
The Bobcats (23-7) advance to the Region III Tournament Friday, once again at Tyler Junior College. They will play San Augustine (21-6) in the semifinals at noon. San Augustine defeated New Summerfield, 69-57.
The regional championship is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday with the winner advancing to the state tournament next week in Austin.
After James Jackson’s inside bucket off a bounce pass from Mason Motal tied the game at 57-57 with 35 seconds remaining, Kerens drained the clock.
The Bobcats worked the ball around until Tobyus Thomas dished off to Betts, who was fouled underneath the basket.
Although Kerens was just 3 of 12 at the free throw line prior to Betts stepping to the line, the guard swished both for the game-winner.
LaPoynor (27-7) was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Betts led the Bobcats with 23 points, including 3 of 4 from the free throw line. He also had five boards.
Thomas contributed 18 points for Kerens, along with 12 rebounds.
Deon Johnson led the Flyers with 20 points, while Octavius Crear and Jackson added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Crear had nine rebounds, while Logan McClelland and Ashton Abendroth added eight boards apiece.
Class 1A Division I Region III Quarterfinals
At TJC’s Wagstaff Gym
Kerens 59, LaPoynor 57
LaPoynor 13 17 17 10 — 57
Kerens 13 15 19 12 — 59
LAPOYNOR — Coy Gonzales, 0; Octavius Crear, 11; James Jackson, 10; Logan McClelland, 6; Ashton Abendroth, 4; Deon Johnson, 20; Seth Anderson, 0; Mason Motal, 6; Wade Lang, 0.
KERENS — Tobyus Thomas, 18; Kevin Townsel, 0; Demetris Sayles, 0; Shelton Sayles, 5; Brandon Ward, 5; Rayvon Faulk, 2; Nate Betts, 23; Daedrion Tolliver, 0; Dustin Jock, 6; Talon Modester, 0.
THREE POINT GOALS — L: McClelland, Johnson (4). K: Thomas (2), S. Sayles, Jock (2).
RECORDS — LaPoynor 27-7, Kerens 23-7.
NEXT UP — Kerens vs. San Augustine, noon Friday at TJC.