By Larry Lamb
The Grapeland Sandies are one win away from bringing home the school’s second boys basketball state championship.
The Sandies (29-1) handled Schulenburg 74-60 in the state semifinal Tuesday night in Aldine ISD’s Campbell Center and advanced to the Class 2A championship game against Clarendon (24-4) Saturday in San Antonio. Tip-off is 10 a.m. in the Alamodome.
Since winning the 1985 state crown, Grapeland has made tournament appearances in 1999, 2001, 2014 and 2017 but hasn’t been able to get past the semifinal round.
Now that the 2021 Sandies have crashed through the semifinal barrier, the Clarendon Broncos are the last obstacle to the gold.
Clarendon, located in the panhandle east of Amarillo, beat Lipan 68-47 in the state semifinal.
This is Clarendon’s fifth appearance in the state tournament but the Broncos have never won a title.
Both Grapeland and Clarendon reached the Final Four in 2017 and lost to Muenster. Muenster beat the Sandies 56-52 (OT) in the state semifinal and then knocked off Clarendon 73-45 in the championship game.
In addition to a trip to state in 2010, Clarendon made two appearances in 1968 and 1969 as a class 1A school. Clarendon’s ’69 team fell to Kennard in the championship game.
With the state crown on the line Saturday, Grapeland hopes to duplicate the first quarter offensive firestorm it unleashed against Schulenburg.
Paced by Cadarian Wiley’s 11 points in the opening period, the Sandies raced out to a 26-6 lead.
Schulenburg opened the second with a 7-0 run to slice the lead in half but saw Grapeland open up a 21-point edge. The Shorthorns were able to cut the lead to 45-29 at halftime.
Schulenburg came out energized in the third and scored three unanswered baskets to make it a 10-point game.
Wiley finally broke the scoring ice with a free throw at the 5:45 mark but two quick buckets by Schulenburg trimmed the gap to seven, 46-39.
Senior B. J. Lamb and sophomore Riley Murchison took matters into their own hands and fueled a 17-2 run that put Grapeland back in control 63-41.
The Sandies’ 17-point frenzy included four consecutive treys – one by Lamb and three by Murchison.
Two late Schulenburg tallies made it 63-45 heading into the final period.
The Shorthorns got within 11 with 2:00 left but hopes of a miracle comeback faded with a steal and back-to-back buckets by Lamb.
Schulenburg scored its final point at the line with :55 left and seemed content to let the Sandies run out the clock.
Wiley and Murchison, who drained six treys, each finished with 23 points. Murchison also made his presence known on defense with seven steals. Wiley had six steals and eight rebounds.
Lamb swooshed in three treys and rounded out double figures with 17. Omarian Wiley chipped in seven and Keizion Ashford had four.
Schulenburg senior Brycen Wilson capped his career with a game-high 30 points and senior Kenny King followed with 13.