By CRAIG HALL
WILBURTON—Talihina’s boys are headed to the Class 2A state tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years after a 45-41 win over Preston in the area tournament championship game on Saturday night.
The Golden Tigers will play on Thursday. Their opponent, time and location will be announced on Tuesday.
In getting some payback on the Pirates for an earlier loss, Talihina built a big lead, saw Preston rally to cut a 13-point lead to two points before senior Alan Lockhart clinched the victory with a pair of free throws with 9.6 seconds left.
The Tigers led by nine points with 1:19 left after a pair of free throws by Keaton Jackson. Preston made things interesting by scoring seven straight points to pull with two points with 26.3 seconds left.
Lockhart then made it a two-possession game with the two free throws to reserve Talihina’s trip back to the state tournament.
Talihina led through the contest and built a 13-point lead twice in the third quarter, the latest on a 3-point basket by Cord Fitzergerald with 1:36 remaining in the period.
Preston rallied to go on a 8-0 run to pull within five points.
The win capped an undefeated run through the playoffs in the toughest 2A area in the state. Talihina has defeated No. 12 Howe, fourth-ranked Haworth and fifth-ranked Preston, which defeated the Tigers at Preston 43-35 early in January.
Haworth and Preston will play Monday at 8 p.m. to decide the other state tournament team out of the area.
Lockhart and Jackson each had 14 points to lead Talihina, now 17-10. Preston, 24-5, was paced by Koby Goodman’s 13 points.
2A area championship
Talihina 45, Preston 41
Talihina 12 12 11 10—45
Preston 11 6 7 17—41
Talihina—Keaton Jackson 14, Alan Lockhart 14, Cord Fitzgerald 5, Christian McClain 4, Jacob Sockey 4, K.J. Morris 2, Bryar Humphreys 2.
Preston—Koby Goodman 13, Jaden Huffman 9, Zoland Knox 6, Zak Pinkston 5, Trevor Taltan 4, T.J. Sims 4,