Tobyus Thomas was in his usual playoff scoring mode, pouring in 20 points in Kerens' 54-41 Region III-1A DI area round playoff victory over Waco Rapoport on Friday night.
But it was his defense, along with a few of his friends, that pushed the Bobcats through another playoff round.
Thomas had three blocks and double digits in rebounds as No. 9 Kerens overcame a 20-18 halftime deficit to coast to a win. The Bobcats used their defense to up the tempo after Rapoport was able to slow the game down in the first half.
"We knew they were going to do that," Kerens coach Don Enis said. "We knew we had to pick the pace up with our defense and were able to do that."
Kerens (23-7) will play No. 11 LaPoyner in the regional quarterfinals, tentatively set for Tuesday night at Tyler Junior College.
Thomas was the key for the Bobcats with Rapoport dead set on slowing down Nate Betts, who scored 34 points in Kerens' bi-district win over Big Sandy. Rapoport went with a box-and-one playing man defense on Betts, and that freed up Thomas. He hit a 3-pointer to give Kerens a 5-4 lead early and that got his offense going.
"We knew Tobyus was going to have to step up," Enis said. "He did a good job of stepping up and scoring tonight."
Kerens went on a 16-1 run after falling behind 22-18 to start the third quarter. After Kevin Townsel drove and cut the lead to two, Thomas made his second 3-pointer of the night for a 23-22 lead.
Shelton Sayles followed with a 3-pointer, and after Devin Finley made 1 of 2 free throws for the Ravend to cut the lead to 26-23, Keren scored eight straight points. Thomas and Betts made consecutive 3-pointers for a 34-23 lead with 51 seconds left.
Rapoport opened the fourth quarter on 7-0 run to cut the Bobcats' lead to 36-32 with 5:30 left and it forced Kerens to get its offense going again.
Betts specifically got his scoring going, beating Rapoport's box-and-one with seven of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to 53-38 with 48 seconds left in the game.
"It was tougher tonight," Betts said. "We just had to keep playing."
Kerens 54, Waco Rapoport 41
Kerens 11 7 18 18 -- 54
Rapoport 10 10 5 16 -- 41
Kerens -- Tobyus Thomas 20, Kevin Townsel 4, Shelton Sayles 7, Rayvon Faulk 2, Nate Betts 19, Daedrion Tolliver 2.
Rapoport -- Blaine Listach 6, Patrick Listach 16, Alvin Daniliuc 14, Devin Finley 5.
Records -- Kerens 22-7, Rapoport 27-5.