NACOGDOCHES — It was like his own personal nightmare, one Dane Hankamer couldn’t seem to wake up from.
Every time the Salado senior tried to drive into the lane for a shot, there was White Oak 6-foot-7 senior post Levi Yancy to swat it back.
“It was in the back of everybody’s mind,” Hankamer said of Yancy’s blocking prowess.
“It was a different experience.”
Yancy recorded seven blocks, all on Hankamer attempts, and helped keep the No. 16 Eagles from getting into any rhythm offensively as the second-ranked Roughnecks took advantage with a 63-44 win in the Region III-2A semifinal Friday at Stephen F. Austin’s William R. Johnson Coliseum.
White Oak (34-1), the defending 2A state champions, will play No. 3 Tatum in the regional final today at noon for a ticket to the state tournament in Austin.
“They are by far the best team we’ve ever faced,” Salado senior Brandon Womac said.
As a player who prides himself on his ability to get to the hole, Hankamer couldn’t even get around the rim without feeling Yancy breathing down his neck.
There was one possession with two minutes to play in the opening quarter that showed just how futile it was to drive against the Roughnecks’ own version of Dikembe Mutombo.
Following a steal on the other end, Hankamer drove into the lane, pivoted and put up a short-range jumper, only to have it swatted back to him. Quickly gathering the rebound, he tried it again. No luck.
“He was a different player than we’ve ever scene (before), his ability to block shots was unmatched by anybody that we’ve played so far this season,” Hankamer said.
Eagles senior post Austin Adams reeled in the rebound and couldn’t find an open look, so he dished to Hankamer for another try. But once again, there was Yancy to swat it toward midcourt, where Roughnecks teammate Josh Benson gathered it and made his way to the opposite end of the court for a fast-break score and a 14-2 lead with 1:45 to play in the first quarter.
“It can rattle you quite a bit,” Womac said of Yancy. “He was actually more fundamental than I thought. Pump-faking him every now and then, and he’d just keep his feet down and it was hard to get shots off inside.”
It was during that first quarter that White Oak separated itself, both athletically and on the scoreboard as Salado (28-9) went on a 5-minute dry spell between a putback by Adams that tied it at 2-2 1:49 seconds into the game and a 3 from Kyle Heiner with 54.3 seconds left in the opening frame. The Roughnecks rolled up a 14-0 run during that span and led 16-5 entering the second.
Salado settled down, though, twice pulling within five points — including at 27-22 with 3:22 left on the heels of a 7-0 run — but White Oak senior Sklar Sutton nailed a 3 with 1:41 remaining and Benson threw up a desperation half-court heave that banked in at buzzer to send the Eagles into halftime once again trailing by 11, 35-24.
“That was a little upsetting because we were going into halftime within single digits after a great second quarter to fight ourselves back into it, and that was just like, ‘Crap, I guess it’s going to be one of those nights,’” Salado head coach Kenny Mann said.
White Oak opened the second half with an 8-0 run over the first 2:30 of the third and pushed the lead to 47-26 for its first 21-point advantage with 4:38 left in the frame as Salado never again pulled within single digits
While Yancy got it done defensively, Roughnecks’ 5-7 guard Kris Anderson did it offensively, scoring 12 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.
On the other side, Adams led with 12 points and nine rebounds,Womac added nine points and eight rebounds and junior guard Kase Spears had nine points.
But the Eagles could never find any consistency, managing just 2-of-18 shooting in the first quarter, including 1 of 11 from two-point range. Hankamer and Womac alone missed their first seven attempts as Salado managed just 9-of-39 shooting in the first half, 3-of-14 from 3-point range.The Eagles finished 18-of-66 (27 percent) from the field — 14-of-42 from inside the arc.
“Our shots just weren’t falling, and we had a lot of shots that were just completely off,” Womac said. “(It may have been) nerves maybe, but I don’t really know how to explain that.”
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566