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State-ranked Lovelady, Latexo softballers go undefeated in tournaments

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Lovelady's Lady Lions, the top-ranked class 2A team in the state, went undefeated in winning the Franklin tournament last week. COURTESY PHOTOLovelady's Lady Lions, the top-ranked class 2A team in the state, went undefeated in winning the Franklin tournament last week. COURTESY PHOTO

By Larry Lamb
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Two Houston County softball teams boasting lofty state rankings flexed their muscles in tournament action over the weekend.

The Lovelady Lady Lions are tabbed No. 1 and the Latexo Lady Tigers are pegged No. 6 in the latest MaxPreps class 2A rankings released Friday, March 4.

Both Lovelady and Latexo are coming off eye-popping tournament performances.

Lovelady shut out six class 3A squads on the way to the tourney championship at Franklin. The Lady Lions outscored their opponents 45-0.

During the grueling two-day tournament, the Lady Lions defeated Buffalo 10-0, Blooming Grove 10-0, Caldwell 6-0, Rogers 9-0, Kountze 2-0  and Woodville 8-0.

Latexo also grabbed some attention by outscoring their opponents 52-4 in five games en route to the championship in their own tournament.

The Lady Tigers won two  games Friday over Alto 9-1 and Cypress Christian 13-0.

Picking up where they left off Saturday morning, the Lady Tigers shut out Cross Roads 10-0, beat Concordia Lutheran 10-2 and then completed their tourney sweep over Crockett 10-1.

Lovelady and Latexo compete in different districts and regions. The Lady Lions are in District 21-2A Region 3 and Latexo is in District 25-2A Region 4.

Lovelady's district includes Alto, Cushing, Douglass, Groveton, Apple Springs (1A), Kennard (1A) and  Wells (1A).

Latexo's district includes Centerville, Grapeland ,Jewett Leon, Slocum and Oakwood (1A).

Facing off in a non-district matchup Feb. 15,  the Lady Lions edged the visiting Lady Tigers 8-7 on a walk-off triple.

Latexo's Lady Tigers, ranked No. 6 in the state by MaxPreps, were undefeated champions in their own tournament over the weekend.Latexo's Lady Tigers, ranked No. 6 in the state by MaxPreps, were undefeated champions in their own tournament over the weekend.

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Johnson named Co-Offensive POY

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Tocarra Johnson - Crockett District 20-3A Co-Offensive Player of the YearTocarra Johnson - Crockett District 20-3A Co-Offensive Player of the Year

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT - Crockett junior Tocarra Johnson stepped  up her game on the basketball court this season and her efforts were rewarded with a superlative on the District 20-3A All-District team.

Johnson was named Co-Offensive Player of the Year after being a first team selection her sophomore year.

The Lady Bulldogs claimed nine other all-district honors. Senior Chelsea Walker was a first team honoree while junior La'Kyriah Hamilton and freshman Tania Davis took second team spots.

Honorable mentions went to seniors Keaton Crabtree and JaKayla Faulk.

All-district Academic honorees included Johnson, Davis, Crabtree and sophomore Stasia Parker.

All-district selections are not released until all teams in the district have been eliminated in the playoffs.

For the second straight year, district champion Fairfield reached the state final and captured the championship over Winnsboro, 60-54, to complete a 40-1 season. This was Fairfield's second state crown in three years. Fairfield won a class 4A state championship in 2020 and last year settled for class 3A  runner-up honors after a 68-64 overtime loss to Brownfield.

The all district selections announced Monday are:

2021-2022   All District Superlatives/Awards

District 20 –3A

Superlative Awards

MVP:  McKinna Brackens,  Fairfield

Defensive Player of the Year: Shadasia Brackens, Fairfield

Co-Offensive Player of the Year:  Tocarra Johnson: Crockett; Breyunna Dowell,  Fairfield

Newcomer of the Year: Karaline Smitherman, Franklin

Sixth Man of the Year:  Taylor Smitherman, Franklin

First Team 

Jaysa Coney, Westwood; Chelsea Walker, Crockett; Kaylin Ortner, Franklin; Maggie Smitherman, Franklin; Riley Hood, Franklin; Reagan Higgins,  Teague; Jolee Haley, Teague; Lyric Broussard, Teague; Jimena Crispo, Elkhart; Tavia Angland, Groesbeck; Cole Tatum, Groesbeck; Abby Brewer, Buffalo; Jarahle Daniels,  Fairfield; 14. Avery Thaler, Fairfield.

Second Team

La’Kyriah Hamilton, Crockett; Tania Davis, Crockett; Kaylee Rodriguez,  Buffalo; Alondra Dominguez, Buffalo; Kori Pillette,  Teague; Ashlynn Forge, Teague; Haley Stiff,  Elkhart; Alexis Rivero:, Groesbeck; Kelsey Shriver, Groesbeck; Addisyn Cox,  Fairfield; Emori Davis,  Fairfield; Gracie Weston,  Westwood; Hailey Fannin,  Franklin; Riley Caldwell,  Franklin

All-District Academic

90-plus average for the season

Buffalo:  Lizzie Daniel, Abby Brewer, Kaylee Rodriguez, Sherlynn Rodriguez, Molly Hirsh

Fairfield:  McKinna Brackens, Avery Thaler, Addisyn Cox, Jimilyah Nash, Cooper Lawley, Jarahle Daniels, Breyunna Dowell, Emori Davis 

Franklin:  Maggie Smitherman, Riley Caldwell, Kaylin Ortner, Emma Rekieta, Taylor Smitherman, Riley Hood, Hailey Fannin, Karaline Smitherman

Crockett:  Stasia Parker, Keaton Crabtree, Tania Davis, Tocarra Johnson

Groesbeck: Tavia Anglin, Kole Tatum, Kelsi Shriver, Alyssa Hill, Alexis Rivero, Rainy Samuels 

Teague:  Reagan Heggins, Ashlynn Forge, Alexis Dancer, Ta'Koria Jones, Mollie Sims, Lyric Broussard, Kori Pillette, Bethanah Owens

Westwood:  Graci Weston

Honorable Mention

Fairfield:  Jimilyah Nash, Cooper Lawley

Buffalo:  Alexis O’Daniel, Lizzie Daniel, Molly Hirsch, Sherlynn Rodriguez

Franklin:  Emma Rekieta, Kiara Coleman, Aubrie Hawkins

Crockett: Keaton Crabtree, JaKayla Faulk

Teague:  Ta'Koria Jones, Mollie Sims, Alexis Dancer, Bethanah Owens

Westwood:  Shahanna Harris, Sydney Collier, Anaiya Birdow

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Bulldogs claim share of district title

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District 20-3A Co-Champion Crockett Bulldogs team members are (front l-r) Iverson Rischer, Tayshawn Simon, Jadyn Collins, Bre'dron Tucker and Ajani Ellis; (back l-r) coach Johnny Ervin, coach Frederick Davis, Jarodrick Holmes, Courtney Byrd, head coach Drae Murray, Delvin Walker, Keshun Easterling and coach Parker Emerich. Larry Lamb Photo/HCCDistrict 20-3A Co-Champion Crockett Bulldogs team members are (front l-r) Iverson Rischer, Tayshawn Simon, Jadyn Collins, Bre'dron Tucker and Ajani Ellis; (back l-r) coach Johnny Ervin, coach Frederick Davis, Jarodrick Holmes, Courtney Byrd, head coach Drae Murray, Delvin Walker, Keshun Easterling and coach Parker Emerich. Larry Lamb Photo/HCC

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT –  It was payback time for the Crockett Bulldogs when undefeated Franklin came town for the District 20-3A finale last Tuesday.

Franklin used a late rally to edge Crockett 65-61 in the first round of district play Jan. 21.

This time, the Bulldogs put the game away with a 32-9 fourth quarter frenzy that sealed a 75-52 victory and earned them a share of the district championship.

Fans who packed the old Crockett High School gym were treated to a classic match-up featuring two state-ranked squads --  No. 12 Franklin and No. 14 Crockett.

With the win, Crockett (25-6) replaced Franklin (17-3) at No. 12 and the Lions dropped to No. 14 in this week's poll.

The Bulldogs led 15-13 after a quarter and 33-32 at the break, but the game was deadlocked at 43-43 at the end of the third. 

“I’ve been saying all season that we’re a third quarter team, but tonight we were a fourth quarter team,” said Bulldogs head coach Drae Murray.

Junior Jadyn Collins jump-started Crockett's fourth-quarter with two straight buckets to spark a 10-2 run for 53-45 lead with 5:20 left.

Coach Murray called a time-out at the five-minute mark but said he had second thoughts about it.

“That was the exact time I called time-out the first time we played Franklin. I told coach (Parker) Emerich I hated calling it. It’s like deja vu. We had the momentum and the flow was going our way. He reassured me that it was a good decision and our guys would play hard. He was right,” Murray said.

Murray warned his crew not to underestimate Franklin and let their guard down in the closing minutes.

"Franklin has championship DNA. They’re not going to give up so you have to continue to play hard and finish the game,” said Murray, referring to Franklin’s 2021 state championship football season. “A lot of those basketball guys played football and they know what it takes to win. After that time-out, we got a turnover and layup. Our guys responded tonight.”

With memories of their earlier loss to Franklin lingering, the Bulldogs stepped on the gas and rattled off a 20-4 run in the final 3 ½ minutes.

A dunk by senior Delvin “DJ ”Walker in the closing seconds put an exclamation point on the victory.

“This was D.J.’s last time playing in this gym. To finish with a dunk and score 24 points, and to be able to hang a banner in The Hop as district co-champions is going to be a memorable night for him. That’s a great way for a senior to end the regular season and now he has to be special in the playoffs as we try to make a deep run that hopefully will end in San Antonio. He’s a special kid and I’m so happy for him,” said Murray.

The old CHS gym was pressed into service during the Houston County Classic in December when a bubble developed in the court at the Hopkins Activity Center. The Bulldogs were undefeated playing all of their district home games in the old gym.

Walker, who hit four treys,

canned 11 of his game-high 24 points in the final frame.

Collins netted nine points in the fourth quarter and ended up with 16 on the night.

Courtney Byrd also was key in the fourth quarter with eight points and finished with 12.

Tayshawn Simon rounded out double figures with 10, Bre’dron Tucker had eight and Keshun Easterling had five.

Murray said Tucker brings more to the table than just scoring. “He rebounds and defends the best player on the other team every single game, so I have to give him some praise. I was hard on him at one stretch of the season and could tell he was down a little bit. But I called him in and we talked, and he’s responded,” said the coach.

“Bre’dron is such a special kid. He’s one of those kids that you can go to war with every night knowing he’s going to have your back and play hard. For the things he does besides scoring – defending and rebounding --  give me eight Bre’dron Tuckers any day of the year and I’ll be fine," the coach added.

Simon's performance also caught Murray's eye. “Tayshawn was all over the place. I challenged him to get on the floor and go for a loose ball. He almost hit his head on the front row of the bleachers just because he was playing hard. You root for kids like that.”

“Jayden was his usual self. He was really good in the fourth quarter and had nine points. Teams like to  play zone  against us because they think that’s the best way to defend against us shooting threes. Collins is so good inside if you leave him open, he’s able to hit that midrange.”

After the final buzzer, each Crockett player and coach took turns snipping the net as they savored the victory.

“Everybody got a little souvenir, something they can cherish for life. This net will go up in my office at home, not in my office at school. This is my first co-district championship and my first year as head coach so this is a very special moment for me,” said Murray.

Murray said being the only team in the district able to put a blemish on Franklin's record "feels amazing."

Since Crockett and Franklin tied for first place, the coaches agreed to a coin toss to determine playoff seeding. Franklin enters postseason as first place team and Crockett is runner-up.

Franklin was paired with Caldwell and Crockett faced Rogers in a bi-district double-header Tuesday night in Bryan.

“When we’re rolling and we’re playing as a team, we’re special. That’s what we have to do in the playoffs, play together as a team,” said Murray.

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Lovelady girls win bi-district, area titles

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Lovelady Lady Lions pose for a celebratory photo after winning the area championship over Bosqueville last Friday. Pictured are (front l-r) Macie LaRue, Arris LeMaire, Mihyia Davis and Haley Davidson; (back l-r) assistant coach Taylor Rich, Chelsea Butler, Jada Johnson, Aaliyah Jones, Shelby Pugh, Shyanne Pipkin, Lexi Price and head coach Kollyn McWhinney. Not pictured is Haley Shupak.  Lawanna Monk PhotoLovelady Lady Lions pose for a celebratory photo after winning the area championship over Bosqueville last Friday. Pictured are (front l-r) Macie LaRue, Arris LeMaire, Mihyia Davis and Haley Davidson; (back l-r) assistant coach Taylor Rich, Chelsea Butler, Jada Johnson, Aaliyah Jones, Shelby Pugh, Shyanne Pipkin, Lexi Price and head coach Kollyn McWhinney. Not pictured is Haley Shupak. Lawanna Monk Photo

By Lawanna Monk

FAIRFIELD – Lovelady Lady Lions used clutch free throw shooting down the stretch  to seal a 41-34 area round victory over Bosqueville on Friday night.

Lovelady (33-4) faced Martin's Mill (32-3) in the regional quarterfinal Tuesday in Elkhart.

The Lady Lions led 6-0 after a quarter and 21-10 at the break but saw their lead shrink to seven at the end of the third.

Leading by six, Lovelady's Mihyia Davis scored a bucket for a 37-29 lead with 1:10 left.

Bosqueville quickly cut the lead to five with 54 seconds left. After hitting the front end of a one-and-one and missing the second, the Lady Bulldogs got the rebound and laid the ball in to make it 37-32 with :42 left.

Freshman Lexi Price went to the line for a one-and-one and sank both shots for a 39-32 lead.

The Lady Bulldogs refused to go away, scoring a basket on its next possession to get within five with :25 left.

Bosqueville sent Davis to the line for another one-and-one, but the senior calmly nailed both to ice the game with 23.7 seconds left.

The Lady Lions knocked down an eye-popping 13 of 15 attempts at the charity stripe for an 86 percent average.

In contrast, Bosqueville struggled at the line and only made 4 of 18 shots for 22 percent.

Davis was a perfect 5 of 5 at the line in the fourth quarter, and led Lovelady with 15 points. She also had three steals.

Price knocked down 5 of 6 free throws in the final frame and finished with seven points. She was also credited with six rebounds and four blocks.

Sophomore Aaliyah Jones, 3 of 4 at the line, had seven points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Senior Shyanne Pipkin flirted with a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. She drained one three-pointer.

Senior Macie LaRue's three points came on  a trey in the first half.

Bosqueville (25-9), a district  runnerup, defeated Bremond, 53-36, in bi-district.

Opening the playoffs last Tuesday in Grapeland, the Lady Lions defeated the Cross Roads Lady Bobcats, 78-35.

Lovelady led 26-15 after a quarter and outscored  Cross Roads by 11 in the second quarter to pull away  45-27.

The Lady Lions opened up a 62-34 lead in the third and dominated the final period 16-1 to put the game away.

Sophomore Chelsea Butler posted a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, along with getting two steals. Butler picked up 11 of her points in the second half.

Four other scorers reached double figures.

LaRue hit a pair of three-pointers and led with 17 points, three rebounds and three steals.

Davis had 14 points, three rebounds and three steals.

Price and Jones rounded out double figures with 10 apiece Price also collected five rebounds, four steals and seven assists.

Jones, who drained a pair of treys, booked four rebounds and four steals.

Pipkin knocked down a trey and finished with seven, Shelby Pugh had three while Jada Johnson and Arris LeMaire chipped in two apiece.

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 Lovelady's Keivon Skinner (2) is defended by Grapeland's Omarian Wiley (23) during a district matchup last Tuesday night in Lovelady. LAWANNA MONK PHOTOLovelady's Keivon Skinner (2) is defended by Grapeland's Omarian Wiley (23) during a district matchup last Tuesday night in Lovelady. LAWANNA MONK PHOTO

LOVELADY – A second quarter push by Grapeland proved to be the difference as the Sandies defeated Lovelady 46-36 on the road Tuesday night.

The Lions held the No. 17-ranked Sandies to a 7-6 first quarter lead but were outscored by 10 in the second as Grapeland pulled away 24-13  at halftime.

The Sandies continued to lead to 32-22 after  the third and both teams scored 14 in the final period.

Grapeland was paced with a double-double by junior Omarian Wiley, who booked 14 points and 19 rebounds. Johnny Lamb followed with 12 points (2 treys) and 7 rebounds.

Riley Murchison scored 8 points and was credited with 6 assists. Lakerina Smith tossed in 6, Cadarian Wiley 4 and Zandric Anderson 2.

Lovelady’s scoring was led by senior Slade Murray with 14. Keivon Skinner followed with 8, Jayton Crawford 6, Shaun Easterling 5 and Skylar Pipkin with 3.

The Sandies made 9 of 12 free throws while the Lions were 4 of 12.

Grapeland (11-0) came into the game with the district title in hand and stands one win away from a complete sweep. The Sandies had a bye Friday before their district finale Tuesday at Groveton.

In Friday's district matchups, Centerville defeated Latexo 64-34, Lovelady beat Groveton 70-38 and Slocum beat Leon 51-24.

One one game left, Centerville is in second place at 8-3. Slocum and Lovelady are tied for third with 7-4 records and Groveton is 4-7.

Lovelady closed out district Tuesday at Latexo and Slocum hosted Centerville.

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