Nate Betts emerged in Kerens' historic state tournament run last season as a energy guy off the bench.
Now he's just a flat-out scoring machine.
Betts had an electric game Monday night, pouring in 34 points as the Bobcats held off Big Sandy 70-62 in a Region III-1A bi-district playoff game at Wagstaff Gymnasium in Tyler.
"I felt it," Betts said. "It's time to step up for the team."
Kerens (21-7) will next play Waco Rapoport on Friday night in an area round playoff game in Buffalo.
Kerens needed all of Betts' offense as as the Wildcats battled back from a 15-point deficit with 1:39 left in the third quarter.
The sophomore scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers, the second that answered a Big Sandy 3 to give Kerens its final double-digit lead at 62-51 with 6:18 left in the game.
Big Sandy cut the lead to 64-58 with 3:53 left on a layup by Joshua Jackson. After Kevin Townsel drove and scored for Kerens to make it 66-58, the Wildcats answered with drives to the basket to cut the lead to four points with 1:28 left.
Betts finished off the game with two free throws with 12.2 seconds left and a one-handed dunk as the final buzzer sounded.
Betts had a spectacular first half. He made a 3-pointer for Kerens' largest lead at 29-17, but it was his penatration into the lane that frustrated Big Sandy.
Betts was able to get to the free throw line, or just inside of it, and pull up and hit jump shot after shot, giving him a 15-point first half and the Bobcats a 37-27 halftime lead.
"He was unreal," Kerens coach Don Enis said. "He's getting better every game. He was really big tonight."
Senior forward Tobyus Thomas also had a solid first half with 12 points, including two 3-pointers in the first quarter. Thomas finished with 16 points.
Thomas took great pride in the way the Bobcats responded, and the way in which Betts shot the ball against the Wildcats.
"I taught him a few things," Thomas said.
Bett's high-flying dunk sealed the deal, one that he'll remember for some time.
"It was great," Betts said. "Right when Shelton passed it, I knew I was going to dunk it."
Kerens 70, Big Sandy 62
Big Sandy 12 15 18 17 -- 62
Kerens 19 18 17 16 -- 70
Big Sandy -- Joshua Jackson 28, Matt Easley 3, Taurus Keppard 10, Isaiah Johnson 21.
Kerens -- Tobyus Thomas 16, Kevin Townsel 8, Demetris Sayles 4, Shelton Sayles 5, Rayvon Faulk 3, Nate Betts 34.
Records -- Big Sandy 22-6, Kerens 21-7.