By Larry Lamb
After toppling No. 1 Martin’s Mill, the Grapeland Sandies added another notch on their belt by taking down No. 9 Gary 48-46 in the regional semifinals Tuesday in Lufkin.
Grapeland’s win sets up a showdown between the No. 3 Sandies (27-1) and No. 4 LaPoynor (26-5) in the regional final Friday night at Fairfield High School.
LaPoynor, which edged Big Sandy 53-50 in the regional semifinals, handed the Sandies their only loss, 61-56, back on Dec.12.
The winner of the Grapeland-LaPoynor matchup advances to the state semifinal round March 8-9 with a ticket to the Class 2A State Championship in San Antonio on Saturday, March 13 up for grabs.
Grapeland led by six three times in the final five minutes but could not put Gary away.
The Sandies had a six-point lead with 1:50 left after Cadarian Wiley hit his third straight bucket.
Gary answered with a deep trey and then hit one of two free throws to make it 47-45 with 46.8 seconds left.
Grapeland’s B.J. Lamb went to the line for a one-and-one situation with 10.9 seconds left. He sank the front end but the second would not fall, holding the Sandies’ lead at 48-45.
Trailing by three, Gary inbounded the ball and a foul on Cadarian Wiley sent the Bobcats to the line for two shots with 1.8 seconds left.
Needing a miracle, the Bobcats’ only hope was to make the first free throw, intentionally miss the second, get the rebound and score.
Landon Woodfin’s first attempt was good to make it 48-46. His second shot hit the rim and the Sandies collected the rebound as the buzzer sounded, setting off Grapeland’s victory celebration.
Playing their preferred brand of run-and-gun style of basketball, the Sandies raced out to a 6-0 lead.
After Gary slowed the tempo, the Bobcats were able to match Grapeland’s six points the rest of the first quarter but still trailed 12-6.
Gary was within a point with 4:45 left in the second when the Sandies pulled away 21-15 on three unanswered buckets.
The Bobcats drained a trey in the closing seconds of the half, capping a 10-2 run that put them on top 25-23 at the break.
Seizing momentum in the third quarter, the Sandies went on a 10-2 run to take a 33-27 lead at the 4:00 mark.
Gary scored back-to-back buckets to make it a two-point game with :25 left. In the closing seconds Mike Dancer heaved an errant trey but a rebound and put-back by Keizion Ashford at the buzzer pushed the Sandies’ lead to 35-31.
Lamb went to the bench with four fouls at the 1:08 mark in the third and returned early in the fourth after Gary nailed a pair of free throws to get within two.
Held to their lowest offensive output this season, the Sandies were led by Cadarian Wiley’s 18 points. Wiley scored eight of Grapeland’s 11 points in the second quarter and made three consecutive baskets in the fourth.
Lamb, who scored his team’s only three-pointer of the night, recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds
Keizion Ashford scored nine, Mike Dancer and Omarian Wiley chipped in two apiece, and Riley Murchison had one.
Gary’s Ryan Ecker led a trio of double-digit scorers with 15. Landon Woodfin had 13 and Dakota Beckham finished with 11.
Grapeland made 5 of 10 free throws and Gary hit 10 of 13.
The Sandies came into the game riding momentum from an 81-75 upset of top-ranked Martin’s Mill Saturday afternoon in Frankston.
The match-up featuring two of the state’s premier class 2A teams lived up to all the pre-game hype.
Grapeland led by three after a quarter and outscored the Mustangs 26-18 in the second to open up an 11-point halftime lead.
After Lamb hit two straight buckets to put the Sandies up 41-30, Mustang Carter Jones drilled a trey to make it an eight-point game with :10 left in the half.
Lamb had an answer, however, when he heaved a 3-point buzzer-beater from half court to stretch the Sandies’ lead back to 44-33 at the break.
Martin’s Mill came out sizzling in the third, hitting three treys in an 11-2 run to cut the lead to two, 46-44.
A 9-2 run put Grapeland up 55-46 but the Mustangs tied it 61-61 on a deep trey in the waning seconds of the third.
The game was tied at 67 early in the fourth when a put-back by Murchison ignited a 6-0 run that put the Sandies up 73-67.
After their lead was cut to two, 77-75, the Sandies hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Lamb, a Trinity Valley Community College football signee, led the Sandies with a triple-double of 22 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
Wiley booked 22 points and nine rebounds while Ashford rounded out double figures with 16 and led with five steals.