Kennedale’s season of perfection came close to a weekend date for the title, but Houston Yates held on for an 86-79 victory Thursday in the Class 3A semifinals of the UIL state tournament at the Erwin Center.
Kennedale guard Trystan Carr came up with a baseline drive and scooping layup with 1:28 left — his only points of the game — to cut the deficit to 78-76, but Yates guard Davion Houston swished a corner 3-pointer 25 seconds later to make it 81-76 and the Wildcats (38-1) could get not catch up.
“They had to get a big shot,” Kennedale coach Doug Groff said of Yates. “They were up two and the kid hit the big shot, and they hit the free throws at the end.”
Yates made five of six free throws in the final 63 seconds to finish the scoring. The Lions (24-8) meet Dallas Madison (29-3) at 10 a.m. Saturday in a rematch of last year’s 3A final.
Kennedale’s poor free-throw shooting and turnovers allowed the Lions to build a comfortable advantage that the erratic Wildcats could not close. Kennedale had not led since 2-0, and opened the fourth quarter down, 64-57. Yates had scored 33 points off Kennedale turnovers by the start of the final period.
“Coach told us to keep playing,” said Kennedale senior guard Ty Charles, who also led the team with 17 rebounds. “We had eight minutes to finish. Just play hard and go all out.”
Charles, who tied Aundre Jackson for team-high honors with 21 points, chipped in four points as Kennedale began to close the gap in the fourth. A layup by the Wildcats’ Kelon Doss with 3:11 left trimmed the Yates lead to 72-70.
Yates led 76-72 when Jackson, a power forward and Kennedale’s most physical player, fouled out with 1:56 left. Jackson finished with 10 rebounds and three blocks despite playing with four fouls since the middle of the third period.
“I guess I just didn’t want to let my team down,” Jackson said.
Carr’s heroics followed shortly, but Houston’s 3-pointer made the difference. Yates was 11-for-27 from 3-point range.
“That’s actually my worst spot,” said Houston, “but it was crunch time and it just went in. It was a relief, but there was still a minute and 20 [seconds] to go so we had to keep our composure.”
Groff said Kennedale averaged 65- to 67-percent on its free throws, but the Wildcats were below 50 percent (16 of 33) from the line Thursday.
“We’re usually a little better than that, but that aside, we had our opportunities,” Groff said. “I told the team a few minutes ago that if they were going to beat us, they were going to have to make plays. I would say it was more about them making plays then us not doing what we were supposed to do. They executed when they had to.”