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Lady Dogs lock up playoff spot

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Lady Bulldog La'Kyriah Hamilton (5) looks to pass from the floor in Friday night's victory over Groesbeck.LARRY LAMB  | HCCLady Bulldog La'Kyriah Hamilton (5) looks to pass from the floor in Friday night's victory over Groesbeck.LARRY LAMB | HCC

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT -- The Crockett Lady Bulldogs can breathe a little easier after clinching fourth place in District 20-3A.

Coach TaNesiah Johnson's crew beat Elkhart, 66-31, on Tuesday and upended Groesbeck, 65-46, on Friday in back-to-back home games.

"We're officially in the playoffs," said a relieved coach Johnson after the win over Groesbeck.

The Lady Dogs played Buffalo on Tuesday and will host Westwood on Friday, which is their Senior Night game. They wrap up the regular season next Tuesday at Fairfield.

Leading Groesbeck just 27-24 at halftime, the Lady Bulldogs staged an impressive 21-7 third quarter run to break the game open.

"Of course, we started off sluggish and weren't where we were supposed to be," said Johnson, pointing out the Lady Dogs only scored 11 in the first quarter and 16 in the second.

"My leading scorer only had nine points at halftime. We were just struggling to get started," said Johnson. "We've got to find a way to get our tempo and our mojo going early in games."

Fortunately, Crockett came to life in the third.

Junior Tocarra Johnson came out sizzling and scored 15 points to spark a 21-7 run that put Crockett up 49-31.

The Lady Dogs only outscored the guests 17-14 in the final period. “They almost matched our points in the fourth, so we won the game in third,” said the coach.

Johnson finished the night with 29 points and was joined in double figures by La’Kyriah Hamilton with a career-high 14 and A’Nayah Wooten with 10.

Chelsea Walker scored 6, Tania Davis 4, and Keaton Crabtree 2.

Johnson said the Lady Dogs, who only made 7 of 18 at the line, still need to improve on free throw shooing. Groesbeck was 10 of 15.

The Lady Bulldogs had 26 turnovers to Groesbeck’s 24. “That’s a lot for us but we average 30 to 40, so I’ll take it,” said Johnson. “We actually scored off of their turnovers. In the past we’d turn it over, blow it or turn it back over.”

Last Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs found the Elkhart Lady Elks to be feistier than when they played the first time.

When Crockett and Elkhart played on Dec. 17, the Lady Elks trailed 25-6 early but they came into the rematch determined to make the Lady Bulldogs earn every point.

Elkhart held Crockett to a 12-11 first quarter lead and was still in the game at halftime when Crockett led 24-18.

Picking up the pace in the second half, Crockett outscored Elkhart by 12 in the third quarter to take a 41-23 lead and capped it with a 25-8 run in the fourth.

“I warned the girls that we couldn’t afford to start off flat. Elkhart has nothing to lose with only two wins and would like nothing better than to gain back bragging rights,” said coach Johnson. “So, what did we do? Coming out flat is an understatement. We came out dead. It was horrible.”

“We didn’t come ready to play. We think because we’re playing Elkhart we don’t have to work. We’ve still got to work. That was the difference between us and Franklin last Friday. They played all four quarters from the beginning to the end. We turned it on in spurts. We have to turn it on at the beginning until the clock runs out,” said the coach.

Johnson has been harping all season long on the need to have at least three scorers in double figures and the Lady Bulldogs had four.

Tocarra Johnson led with 24, followed by Wooten with 13, Davis with 11 and Hamilton with 10.

Ty’Shonda Bell chipped in 5, Katelyn Shepherd 2 and Chelsea Walker 1.

Crockett only shot 12 of 31 at the line for 34 percent and Elkhart was 7 of 14.

Shooting from the field was horrendous. “We missed 60 shots and probably 40 of those were layups. That’s 80 points,” pointed out Johnson

“Our problem is we turn it on and off when we want to instead of playing 100 percent the whole game. That’s literally how we lose, playing in spurts,” she added.

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Bulldogs finish strong in win over Groesbeck

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Bulldogs Courtney Byrd (24) and Bre'dron Tucker (22) battle for a rebound during Friday night's district match-up against Groesbeck. Crockett defeated the Goats 72-64 to remain in second place in district play.  ARRY LAMB  | HCCBulldogs Courtney Byrd (24) and Bre'dron Tucker (22) battle for a rebound during Friday night's district match-up against Groesbeck. Crockett defeated the Goats 72-64 to remain in second place in district play. ARRY LAMB | HCC

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT --  The Groesbeck Goats came to town Friday night looking for revenge after falling to Crockett on a buzzer-beater on Jan. 6.

Even on an off-night, the Bulldogs were able to fend off the challengers with a late spurt to win, 72-64.

Crockett (8-1) remains in second place in District 20-3A behind Franklin (9-0). Crockett is ranked No. 14 in the TABC state poll and Franklin is No. 12.

Fairfield and Groesbeck sit third and fourth, respectively, in the district standings with five games left.

The Bulldogs host Westwood on Friday and travel to Fairfield next Tuesday,

Crockett led  Groesbeck 21-18 after a quarter, 36-27 at the half and 52-51 after three.

The Bulldogs opened up an eight-point lead with 5:50 left in the game before Groesbeck cut it back to four, 61-57.

Keshun Easterling scored two straight buckets and D. J. Walker capped a 6-0 run that gave the Bulldogs a 67-57 lead with 3:02 left.

Groesbeck got no closer than six the rest of the way.

Bulldogs head coach Drae Murray said switching from man-to-man defense to zone late in the game was a key factor.

"It was taking Groesbeck like a minute to even get a shot up so that 1-3-1 defense actually saved us. I don't really like playing zone but it's something we keep in the tool box in case we need it and it worked out in our favor tonight," said the coach. 

Murray noted the Bulldogs started off the game strong but began to falter when three starters got into early foul trouble. "It just went down hill from there," he said.

Walker and Easterling picked up two early fouls and Tayshawn Simon finished the half with three fouls.

"That's three starters right there that we rely on to do a lot of things. We relied on our bench guys who were able to keep us afloat, but the momentum and energy level went down in the second quarter,” said Murray.

“We closed out the second pretty strong. Jadyn (Collins) took control of the game for a little while late in the second and early in the third. That helped us get our offensive game going. Defensively, we just weren’t good tonight.”

Collins, who finished the night with 23 points, energized the Bulldogs with 11 in the second quarter and 10 in the third.

After Groesbeck cut the lead to 26-24 with 3:00 left in the first half, Collins sparked a 10-3 run to put the Dogs up 36-27 at the break.

The Goats got within four early in the second half but Crockett staged an 8-0 run on three baskets by Collins and one by Easterling to pull away 44-32.

Groesbeck answered with a 19-8 run to make it a one-point game, 52-51, heading into the fourth.

“They’re well coached and they’re physical. Everybody knows we want to go to the dribble weave and once we get in that, Groesbeck did a good job of jumping it. They’re physical with us so it makes the handoff a lot tougher,” said Murray. “It was the same way when we played them the first time. That’s how we were able to get some back doors on them at times.”

Simon booked 20 points, including three treys, and Easterling, who had 10 points in the final period, finished the night with 15.

Walker scored 7, Courtney Byrd 6 and Antwaain Boston 1.

One bright spot was Crockett’s free throw shooting. Simon made 7 of 8, Collins 6 of 8, Byrd 4 of 4 and Easterling 3 of 3. 

“I had suspicions that we wouldn’t have our best night because our shoot-around was really bad today. I warned the guys you can’t take any team lightly or take them for granted. Everyone wants to beat you because you’re one of the top-ranked teams in the state. We took something from them on their home court and they came here to take something from us,” said Murray in reference to the Bulldogs’ earlier 77-76 win.

Although the Goats lost to Franklin, 54-53, last Tuesday, Murray expects them to make the playoffs.

“They’re a tough, hard-playing ball club that’s in the playoff hunt so I’m sure they’ll finish in the top four,” said Murray.

Last Tuesday, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 22-6 lead on the way to beating Elkhart, 73-34.

Byrd led with 17 points, Easterling had 14, Collins 13 (4 treys) and Simon 12.

Other scorers were Boston with 5, Tucker 4, and Ajani Ellis and Iverson Rischer with 2 apiece.

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Franklin knocks off Crockett boys for district hoops lead

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CollinsCrockett's Jadyn Collins tries to shoot around a Teague defender during the Bulldogs' 64-35 win last Tuesday.By Larry Lamb
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FRANKLIN --  The much-anticipated showdown between No. 11 Franklin and No. 14 Crockett for first place in District 20-3A lived up to the pre-game hype.

In a back-and-forth battle, Franklin closed out the game with an 8-0 run to edge the Bulldogs, 65-61, Friday night in a packed gym.

Franklin takes sole possession of first place with a 7-0 record while the Bulldogs slipped to 6-1.

Falling behind 19-11 after a quarter and 37-32 at halftime, Crockett closed the gap to 47-45 going into the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs seized momentum early in the fourth quarter with a 14-7 run and took a 59-54 lead when Tayshawn Simon heaved in a three-pointer with 3:30 left.

Franklin quickly closed the gap with its own trey to make it a two-point game with 3:00 left but Delvin “D.J.” Walker sank a pair of clutch free throws to give the Bulldogs a 61-57 lead.

Franklin scored two straight buckets to tie the game with :55 left and took advantage of a turnover by the Bulldogs to take the lead. Franklin drained a trey and then hit the first of two free throws for a four-point cushion with :20 left.

Cold shooting at the charity stripe hampered the Bulldogs, who were 4 of 14 for the night. Franklin fared better at the line, hitting 7 of 16.

Walker, who returned to lineup after missing most of the second half of the Teague game with an injury, poured in 25 points to lead Crockett’s scoring and Jadyn Collins contributed 19. Walker and Collins, who each drained three treys, accounted for all of the Bulldogs’ scoring in the second quarter with 11 and 10, respectively.

Simon buried a pair of treys in the fourth quarter and finished with 7. Bre’dron Tucker tossed in 6 and Courtney Byrd chipped in with 4 points..

Franklin senior Marcus Wade pumped in seven treys to lead the Lions with 23 points. Devyn Hidrago followed with 17 and Hayden Helton had 13.

Late-starting Franklin (11-2), coming off a state championship football season, dropped a notch to No. 12 in this week’s TABC state rankings. Crockett (18-6) remained No. 14.

The Bulldogs will get another shot at Franklin when the Lions come to town Feb. 18 for the district finale.

Crockett started the second round of district Tuesday against Elkhart and hosts Groesbeck on Friday. Next week, Crockett travels to Buffalo and Westwood comes to town Friday. 

Coach Drae Murray’s crew may have been looking past Teague last Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first quarter and dominated the Lions the rest of the way to win 64-35 at home.

Holding a three-point early lead, the Bulldogs opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run to lead 23-12. After Teague answered with three straight buckets, the Bulldogs closed out the half with a 10-1 run to pull away 33-19.

Walker led Crockett’s second quarter surge with 11 points and had 14 when he left the game with an injury at the six-minute mark in the third quarter.

The Dogs carried a 49-31 lead into the final period and put the game away with a 15-4 run.

Collins erupted for eight points in the fourth period and finished the night with 17.

Byrd rounded out double figures with 13, followed by Easterling with 6, Tucker 5, Ajani Ellis 4, Simon 2 and Iverson Rischer 2. 

“This was a weird game. It was sloppy. It was bad. We just didn’t play well, but we picked the right game to not play well,” said Murray, referring to the upcoming showdown with Franklin.

“We’ve got a lot of things to clean up before Friday’s game. The good thing about it is we were able to learn and still get a win,” said Murray.

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Fairfield ends Lady Dogs' streak

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Crockett freshman Tania Davis puts up a shot in Friday night’s district home game against Fairfield.Crockett freshman Tania Davis puts up a shot in Friday night’s district home game against Fairfield.

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT – Crockett Lady Bulldogs hammered Westwood, 70-18, on Tuesday but saw their four-game win streak snapped by No. 2 ranked Fairfield, 87-23, on Friday.

In a Tuesday night road game, the Lady Dogs came out smoking on both ends of the court and outscored Westwood by 18 in the first quarter.

“We jumped out of the starting gate, got some early steals and outscored them 22-4,” said coach TaNesiah Johnson.

The Lady Bulldogs didn’t let up in the second quarter as they rattled off a 26-2 run to take a commanding  60-6 halftime lead.

“I tried to balance it out and give my first group resting time while at the same time allowing our bench to get into the game,” said Johnson. “But we still had things we needed to work on in preparation for Fairfield. I informed the ladies that the same fire we started off with against Westwood is the fire that we need to have versus every team we play.”

The Lady Dogs were led by another double-double performance from junior Tocarra Johnson, who booked 24 points and 15 rebounds.

Freshman Tania Davis followed with 19 points and sophomore A'Nayah Wooten recorded her first double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Keaton Crabtree chipped in 5 and junior La'Kyriah Hamilton had 4.

“I sound like a broken record, but if we can continue to have three in double figures every game we will be exactly where we want to be. We must have that same fire with three in double figures when we play the top-tier teams in our district,” said Johnson.

After an impressive win over Westwood, Johnson was optimistic that her team would make a strong showing  against the visiting Lady Eagles, who boast a 26-1 record.

"We just didn't play. We didn't show up. We were intimidated from the very start," said Johnson. "We matched up the girls and told them who they had. We even changed our jump ball defense to help us out and Fairfield scored a layup to start the game. We just weren't there -- mentally or physically."

Fairfield was in control 38-4 after a quarter and 55-6 at the half. Crockett's bright spot was in the fourth quarter it outscored the guests, 15-13.

"We scored 23 points not playing and had we played we'd have scored in the 40s at least," said Johnson, noting that Teague was the only team in the district able to score more than 40 on Fairfield. "Franklin only scored 17 on them, Westwood had 11 and  both Buffalo and Elkhart only scored in single digits."

Tocarra Johnson was Crockett's only double-digit scorer with 11 points. "My big girl should have easily had 20 or 30," said the coach.

Tania Davis scored 8, while Wooten and senior Chelsea Walker managed to score just 2 apiece. "A'Nayah should have had at least 10 and Tania usually scores 10 to 12," noted Johnson.

The coach complimented Walker's defensive play.

"Chelsea stepped up tremendously on defense. She shut No. 20 (Shadasia Brackens) down to 10 points in the first half and no points in the second half," said Johnson, adding that Brackens was held to two field goals in the first half and picked up six points at the line.

The Lady Bulldogs only hit 9 of 19 free throws.

"If we had hit the 10 shots that we missed at the line, that's 33 points right there. Then you add the layups that we missed and that gets us into the 40s," said Johnson, noting that Fairfield made 23 of 34 freebies. “That was a huge difference right there.”

Another disparity was the number of turnovers. Crockett had 29 turnovers to Fairfield’s 9.

Fairfield’s only loss this season was to class 4A Waco LaVega, 51-47. Since then, the Lady Eagles (26-1) have reeled off 24 straight wins.

“We can’t dwell on this game too long since we have to get ready to play Teague here on Tuesday and then go to Franklin on Friday,” said Johnson, whose team sits at 4-3 in district.

Next week, Crockett has back-to-back home games against Elkhart on Tuesday and Groesbeck on Friday.

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Red-hot Bulldogs hit century mark against Westwood, knock off Fairfield

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Keshun Easterling has provided an early spark for the Crockett Bulldogs in their last two games since moving into the starting lineup.LARRY LAMB-HCCKeshun Easterling has provided an early spark for the Crockett Bulldogs in their last two games since moving into the starting lineup.LARRY LAMB-HCC

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT – Crockett Bulldogs reached the century mark for the first time this season with a 100-64 win over Westwood and won a showdown with Fairfield, 77-62, in last week's district action.

Traveling to Palestine Westwood on Tuesday, Crockett led 25-17 after a quarter and 44-29 at the break.

Westwood's hopes of upsetting the state-ranked Bulldogs faded in the third quarter with a 24-12 run that put Crockett up 68-41.

In a high-scoring final period, the Bulldogs outscored the Panthers 32-23 to record their first 100-point game.

Delvin "D.J." Walker, who tallied 17 in the fourth quarter, achieved a double-double with 33 points (3 treys) and 17 rebounds.

Bulldogs head coach Drae Murray said Walker is not only crucial as a scorer but is a dominant player on the boards. "When D.J. got his second foul in the first half I took him out of the game and Westwood got three offensive rebounds in a row, so that shows he does more than just scoring. He's rebounding the ball really well."

Keshun Easterling made his starting debut and booked 14 points, Tayshawn Simon scored 11 and Courtney Byrd contributed 10, all in the third quarter.

Other scorers were Jadyn Collins and Bre'dron Tucker with 8 apiece, Iverson Rischer with 7, Jarodrick Holmes with 4 and Ajani Ellis with 2.

“We took care of business on the road and that’s exactly what we need to do every game,” said Murray.

Another fast start set the stage for Friday night's win over Fairfield in the CHS gym.

Walker scored 10 in the first quarter and went on to lead Crockett with 25 points, including three treys.

"I texted D.J. last night and challenged him. I told him this was a big game and I needed big-time players to step up," said Murray.

Easterling, starting his second game, sparked the Bulldogs with 12 points in the first quarter and finished the night with 18.

Walker and Easterling combined for 22 first quarter points as the Bulldogs grabbed a 28-11 lead over the Eagles.

Crockett extended its lead to 46-27 at halftime and 61-44 after three.

"It's crazy. We threw Keshun (Easterling) into the starting lineup for the Westwood game and the last two games we got off to fast starts. That was due to him,” said Murray, who noted that Easterling had 12 points in the first quarter against Fairfield and six against Westwood.

“We’ve been talking all year about getting off to a fast start. We did it this week and that’s why we were able to win two back-to-back games comfortably,” said the coach. “I can’t say for sure it’s due to Keshun, but the guys are coming out more focused and it’s a good thing. We’d been using Keshun to give us a spark off the bench but since we’d been starting off slow, I thought maybe he could help get us a start fast. He’s a high-energy guy. Starting Keshun worked against Westwood so I stayed with it tonight and it worked against Fairfield.”

Murray said Easterling provides a spark on both ends of the court.

“We’re able to press like we want to and then we’re able to get out and run in transition like we want to. So, it’s a good thing happening at the five position because he’s a speedster. He’s really another guard but he’s so athletic he can go over the rim and rebound the ball, make plays and defend guards. He’s a glue-guy for us,” said Murray.

Tucker netted 11 points in addition to playing a strong defensive game.

“Bre’dron is another glue guy. He always brings a lot of energy and is always in the right spot at the right time. Defensively, his main strength is defending the best player every game,” the coach said.

Collins rounded out double figures 10 points, along with 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

“Jadyn did a good job attacking the middle of that zone and dropping the ball off. That’s why Keshun was able to score 18. A lot of his points came off our guards penetrating and dropping it off to him,” Murray noted.  “Once we got up, we went to our iso game and let them come out. I don’t think anybody in 3A can go on Jadyn Collins and D.J. Walker. Nobody.”

Byrd followed with 6, Holmes 3, Tayshawn Simon 2 and Ajani Ellis 2.

The Bulldogs hit 17 of 23 free throws for 74% and picked up 10 points at the line in the fourth quarter. Walker was a perfect 4 of 4 and Collins was 4 of 5.

“Overall, it was a good team win. We had a balanced scoring attack from a lot of guys. We’re getting contributions from everybody on the team, whether it’s points, rebounds or playing good defense,” said Murray.

Fairfield fell to Franklin, 64-54, last Tuesday and slipped to 3-2 in district with the loss to Crockett.

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