Despite its winless record in Region 4-4A this season, the West Lauderdale boys basketball team didn’t wither away in its district playoff first-round matchup with Choctaw Central.

The Warriors never led by more than 17 points and had to fend off an early second-half comeback by the Knights to pull out a 57-44 victory Tuesday and advance to the Region 4-4A semifinals against Leake Central Thursday

“They gave us a good fight tonight,” Choctaw Central head coach Brent Farmer said of West Lauderdale. “We didn’t execute very well, we didn’t shoot the ball well, so a lot of things were on us that we need to get better at before the next game.”

Thomas Tangle led the Warriors (19-10) with 13 points, scoring 10 in the first half. Kashden Bell scored 10 points and added five rebounds, and Ocavious Jones chipped in seven points. Keanan Peoples scored a game-high 19 points for the Knights (4-24), and Conner Smith added six.

A 10-0 run to open the second quarter, with the help of two 3-pointers and a dunk by Tangle, gave Choctaw Central a 20-9 advantage, which it soon extended to its largest of the contest when Bell hit a shot from beyond the arc and William McKinney made a bucket.

Down 31-14, West Lauderdale closed out the first half with 10 straight points, six of which came from Smith, to make it 31-24 at the break. 

Peoples came out in the third quarter and scored five consecutive points, including a 3, before Devin Portis made a 360 layup to stretch the Knights’ run to 17-0 and tie the game at 31-apiece midway through the period.

The Warriors never lost the lead, however, and scored seven straight points of their own to build a 43-35 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, which Tangle started by completing a 3-point play to give his team a double-digit lead. 

“They started calling itty-bitty fouls early and got us both into foul trouble,” Farmer said “Getting to the bucket was key, especially in that second half.”

The Knights managed just nine points in the final frame as the Warriors pulled away for a 13-point win. Choctaw Central earned its sixth-consecutive victory, while West Lauderdale dropped its 15th straight contest.

“Leake Central is a really good team. Really well-coached,” Farmer said. “Hopefully we can get something out of this, get a bad game out of the way and get ready for the district semis.” 

The Warriors and Gators (14-7) will tip off at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Northeast Lauderdale. Choctaw Central lost both meetings in the regular season.

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