FAIRFIELD — The No. 1-ranked University Trojans dazzled with spectacular shooting and stifled Nacogdoches with stellar second-half defense and took control of a 76-58 win in the Region III-5A quarterfinals at Fairfield High School’s Johnson Activity Center on Monday.
The Trojans (29-8) jumped into a quick deficit down 6-2, but Umoja Gibson scored nine points in the period and University led, 25-17. The Trojans went on a 13-0 run to gain the lead and hold into the second.
The second period scoring fest starred a different player. Dragon guard Jordan Upshaw made the number 23 proud with 20 first-half points, including 14 consecutive to give his team the lead in the period. Deston Sanyude hit a 3-pointer with 5:25 remaining to draw within three and Upshaw hit treys to tie the game and take a three point lead.
University looked to its playmakers to regain the lead heading into the half. Antoine Hailey answered each Nacogdoches score with one of his own. He scored 10 in the second period and passed to Corey Montgomery for a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 45-41 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Trojans came out and took Upshaw out of the game with defensive pressure, holding him scoreless for the quarter. Gibson scored off of the crossover dribble and a coast to coast layin. Tim Wilkinson scored six in the period.
Late in the frame, Blake Upshaw missed a 3-pointer and University took the ball downcourt, dished to Gibson for a three and as he launched it, Upshaw hit him from behind and the ball swished through for the potential four point play.
“You have to hand it to our kids tonight, they were so resilient,” University coach Rodney Smith said. “We got a lead and they took it from us and we were able to take back the lead at the half. The kids found a way to win.”
Jibrael Washington put the finishing touches on the night with two highlight reel dunks, one of them on a baseline drive. Upshaw had 20 in the first half but his only second half points were a 3-pointer with 4:31 remaining and the Trojans leading 70-54.
“We watched Upshaw against Rouse and they did not shoot like that, hats off to their coaching staff for getting them ready to play tonight,” Smith said. “We went into the second half and had to find a way to stop 23 (Upshaw). The defense really stepped up, we held them to eight points in the third and nine in the fourth.”
Gibson finished with 24 points and Antoine Hailey added 20 for the Trojan win.
University advances to the Region III-5A tournament at the Delmar Center in Houston on Friday.