FORNEY — When each of the Tigers climbed the ladder under the basket to cut down the net, it was a play on a ceremony normally seen much later in the bracket.

FORNEY — When each of the Tigers climbed the ladder under the basket to cut down the net, it was a play on a ceremony normally seen much later in the bracket.

The thing about Blue Ridge, however, is that an area round victory, like the 69-61 decision against Dallas Gateway on Friday night, has been hard to come by in the program’s history.

So when you get a chance to celebrate, especially with a majority of the roster being underclassmen and containing only a single senior, you take advantage of trying to make the feeling become more commonplace than once every decade.

"The biggest thing was getting them to learn how to win," Blue Ridge head coach Jason Wilson said. "My goal was just to get into the playoffs. They had to learn how to win. Then they got the confidence to win. That’s the difference."

For the first time in 11 years, Blue Ridge (22-6) has made it to the third round of the postseason and will face Collinsville in a Class 1A Division I Region II quarterfinal at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night at Howe.

Brevin Wiggins had 29 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers, who hadn’t made the playoffs in eight years or gotten past the first round since reaching the 2A region semifinals in 2003 before a late surge rocketed them up the district standings and into the second seed out of 15-A (I).

"You can’t come to the playoffs and be passive. They have to be aggressive and challenge," Wilson said.

Following a blowout victory over Avery to open the postseason, the Tigers faced a tougher challenge in the second round. But they took control in the second half and built a lead that hit 13 in the fourth quarter before Dallas Gateway got as close as the final margin.

"They live on turnovers and shooting the ball a whole lot," Wilson said. "We talked about game management. If we didn’t crack on the press we’d be alright."

Blue Ridge was able to move the ball into the half-court relatively easily against the Gators and never had more than six turnovers in a quarter. That helped Blue Ridge overcome Gateway’s fast start to the game and withstand a pair of spurts in the second half when the game was in the balance.

"We had to control our turnovers. Staying within ourselves is what gave us the ability to win," Wilson said. "We’re consistent in all four quarters."

Malik Woods led three Gators in double figures with 16 points, keying Gateway to a 5-1 burst less than a minute into the game. The Gators, who had 24 turnovers — 15 in the first half, went scoreless for the next four minutes and Blue Ridge jumped in front with its play around the basket.

While the Tigers may be young, they also have a trio of athletic, lanky big men. In addition to Wiggins, junior Travis Jones and freshman Harrison Martin patrolled the boards to keep possessions alive.

Martin finished with 18 points while Jones added seven points and 13 rebounds. Combined with 12 points from point guard Ty Agan, Blue Ridge was able to stretch Gateway’s defense across the court.

"We don’t have just two scorers. We have four, sometimes five," Wilson said. "That’s a tough mismatch. That’s what we focus on. You have to make them afraid of something."

The score was tied at 16 at the end of the first quarter when Harron Jennings connected on a 3-pointer to pull Gateway even. The teams traded the lead early in the second quarter before the Tigers scored eight straight points — three apiece from Wiggins and Martin — for a 30-27 half-time advantage.

Neither team got on the board for nearly the first three minutes of the third quarter. Gateway was able to make a 7-0 run with baskets on three consecutive possessions and went from down five to a 34-32 lead in the middle of the frame.

"We were giving them second-chance points," Wilson said. "We talked about rebounding. That’s what we did the rest of the game. And then we got a good lead on them."

Blue Ridge turned back the Gators with a 13-0 run that covered almost all of the quarter’s final four minutes except for when Jennings made a free throw with 16 seconds left to snap the drought as Blue Ridge took a 45-35 lead to the fourth.

Wiggins was at the forefront of the surge with three baskets and an assist to Jones underneath. Routinely setting up at the free-throw line, Wiggins was able to either get to the basket or dish to an open teammate to keep the offense flowing smoothly.

"We’ve worked really hard on that," Wilson said. "We have a well-balanced team. It spreads them out and he can attack one-on-one."

The Tigers built their lead as big as 57-44 with 5:08 remaining and Gateway never seriously threatened to make a run, especially when it went more than three minutes without a basket and earned points on free throws.