Two years ago, Hallsville notched five wins on the basketball court. A year ago, the Bobcats finished with 13 in the win column.
This season, the Bobcats rattled off 22 wins to storm into the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season, taking 11 out of the last 12 games out of District 15-5A which sent three teams to the postseason with 20-plus wins.
Heading into Tuesday night's Class 5A, Region II bi-district playoff against John Tyler, 11 of the Bobcats' 22 wins were decided by fewer than 10 points either way.
Sparked by a big third quarter, the Lions built a double-digit lead and held on for a 65-56 win over Hallsville in front of a lively crowd at LeTourneau's Solheim Arena.
"We've made strides in this program and that's a credit — all the credit to these kids," Hallsville head coach Rusty Walker said. "Call it progress if you will but, to me, we're trying to change the expectation level of where we want to be.
"We can't do that without players, coaches, administration and the community buying in. We have all of that. It was a team effort in so many ways."
Hallsville's season concludes at 22-10 while John Tyler (25-5) advances to the area round to meet Mansfield Lake Ridge at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Forney.
With Hallsville leading 27-26 at halftime, John Tyler, led by a triple double night from junior Bryson Smith, surged to a 14-point lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Hallsville rallied with an 11-point run that spanned into the fourth quarter to pull within three.
"We had our chances tonight and just couldn't pull through in some areas," Walker said. "Third quarter was big. They ramped up the pressure but it wasn't really one thing.
"It's a game of runs. They got one on us and we answered back. That's what kind of kids we have. They just kept fighting."
Up by two with 6:07 left, John Tyler rattled off a 6-0 run to build a double-digit lead that would stand.
Smith finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists to go along with seven steals and four blocks to lead John Tyler. Jacob Owens-Bush, who had three fouls at halftime, finished with 16 in the second half to lead the way with a game-high 20 points. Patrick Williams and Gerald Berry each added 14 points.
For Hallsville, Coleton Lasseter finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. Junior Blaine Parker turned in a team-high 16 points and Nolan Johnson had 10 points, five assists and two steals for the Bobcats.
John Tyler jumped to an 8-3 lead early before Hallsville — with four from Lasseter — finished the first quarter on an 11-3 run, capped by a jumper from Ryan Cole, who finished with eight points for the Bobcats.
A jumper from Johnson and a putback from junior Kameron Fitzpatrick game the Bobcats its largest lead of the night at six, 26-20, late in the second quarter.
Inside 30 seconds before the break, Berry took a dish from Smith and connected on his first of three threes to a one-point Hallsville lead at intermission.
The Lion duo opened the second half in the same fashion and, paired with a full-court press and eight points from Owens-Bush, John Tyler surged to a 14-point, 45-31, lead with 2:43 left in the third.
Cole had four straight points and Johnson had a jumper to pull the Bobcats to within eight, 45-37, heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson found Parker outside and the junior connected from deep to make it a three-point game with 7:20 left.
Three players scored off turnovers has John Tyler built a cushion with a 6-0 run.
Parker had another three to make it a four-point game with 3:19 left but a final 6-0 run from the Lions — highlighted by a steal and long assist from Smith to Owens-Bush who hammered home a dunk — sealed the Lion win.