Kaufman High School boys basketball is venturing into welcome but uncharted territory under head coach Matt McLaughlin.
With a three-pronged offensive attack, pestering defense and clutch plays, Kaufman defeated the Nacogdoches Dragons, 48-38, 6 p.m. Friday at Frankton High School to advance to the Regional Quarterfinals of the UIL State Playoffs.
“Its exciting,” McLaughlin said. “Every time we get another day to practice, another game to play, it’s well earned.”
The Lions, with McLaughlin at the helm, reached the Area Round of the playoffs back in 2016-17 but were subsequently trounced by Decatur, 102-37.
In Friday’s Regional Semifinal against Nacogdoches, Kaufman’s offense leaned on senior guards Jamar McCray and Joseph McCray, along with sophomore forward Daylon Dickerson.
“They were outstanding tonight,” McLaughlin said. “They attacked, attacked and attacked all night long.”
The trio combined for 65 points in a 75-69 double-overtime win against Ennis in the bi-district round. While it wasn’t the same outpouring that they scored against the Dragons, it was enough to end the game with a win.
“This isn’t a one or two-man show,” McLaughlin said. “We’re a total team.”
Joseph McCray lead the offense during the first half, scoring 12 of his total 18 points, including a buzzer-beating jump shot to give the Lions the lead, 29-25, at the half.
Trailing 35-31 in the third quarter, Dickerson reigned in an offensive rebound before extending over the defense with the putback.
Minutes later, Dickerson followed that up by draining a corner 3-pointer off an assist from senior forward Bennie Brown to give the Lions the lead, 36-35, that they would never surrender.
Dickerson finished the game with 11 points and Jamar McCray followed with 10 points.
“It’s just a matter of when each guy is going to step up, not if,” McLaughlin said.
The defense of the Lions was equally important against Nacogdoches. Kaufman held the Dragons to just three points in the fourth quarter, holding Nacogdoches scoreless for the last five minutes off the game.
Brown, senior forward Charleston Miller and Darius McGee contributed to the stifling defense by nullifying the Dragons’ biggest weapon, senior Nana Antwi-boasiako, who is 6’9”.
“(Nana Antwi-boasiako) is a handful man,” McLaughlin said. “We did an outstanding job trying to stay connected to his body and be physical with him before he caught the ball.”
The Kaufman forwards consistently bodied up and boxed out Antwi-boasiako, holding the Nacogdoches forward to just two points during the second and third quarters.
Kaufman will play Mount Pleasant High School in the Regional Quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Texas at Tyler. For information on this game visit our website at www.kaufmanherald.com.