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Lady Lions roll to 3-0

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ButlerLovelady's Chelsea Butler shoots during last week's district game against Slocum. LAWANNA MONK PHOTOLOVELADY -- It was business as usual for the Lovelady Lady Lions when they hosted district rival Slocum last Tuesday.

Coach Kollyn McWhinney's squad headed into the holiday break undefeated  in district after their third straight lopsided win, 61-22.

In three district games, the No. 2-ranked Lady Lions have outscored their opponents 204-59.

After racing out to a 23-6 lead, the Lady Lions continued to dominate and held a 40-13 halftime advantage. It was 52-16 after the third.

Lexi Price rang up 12 points in the first quarter and finished with 22 points, including a pair of treys.

Aaliyah Jones, who drained three 3s, tossed in 15 and Mihyia Davis rounded out double figures with 10

Chelsea Butler and Shyanne Pipkin chipped in 4 apiece while Jada Johnson and Shelby Pugh each added 3.

Lovelady resumes district play on Tuesday Jan. 4 on the road against Leon. Centerville comes to town on Jan. 7.

Taking a break from district play, Lovelady girls won their first two games in the Tenaha Holiday Hoops Tournament on Monday.

The Lady Lions won their opener over Shelbyville, 61-40 and handled Chireno, 63-39, later in the day to advance to the semi-final on Tuesday.

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Bulldogs top Flatonia in battle of state-ranked teams

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Crockett's Tayshawn Simon glides to the basket against Flatonia on the first day of the Houston County Holiday Classic. (LARRY LAMB|HCC)Crockett's Tayshawn Simon glides to the basket against Flatonia on the first day of the Houston County Holiday Classic. (LARRY LAMB|HCC)By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT – A showdown featuring two state-ranked boys basketball squads highlighted the first day of the Houston County Holiday Classic.

The Crockett Bulldogs (10-3) came into Tuesday's game ranked No. 7 in class 3A while the Flatonia Bulldogs rode into town boasting a 16-1 record and a No. 5 ranking in class 2A.

Coach Drae Murray's crew prevailed 70-65 in a hard-fought battle on their home court in the Andrew J. Hopkins Activity Center.

Crockett led 24-16 after a quarter but was outscored by 10 in the second quarter as Flatonia slipped in front, 39-37, at halftime. The men in blue regained the lead in the third quarter, 55-50, and fended off Flatonia down the stretch to secure the victory.

A foursome of double-digit scorers fueled Crockett's offense. D.J. Walker pumped in 10 points in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 18 that included a pair of treys.

Courtney Byrd canned 13 and Tayshawn Simon, who drained a pair of treys, booked 12 while Jadyn Collins tossed in 11.

Keshun Easterling was close behind with 8, Jaroderick Holmes tossed in 4, Iverson Rischer 2 and Bre'dron Tucker had 2.

Two other Houston County teams are competing in this year's tournament.

The Lovelady Lions lost their tourney opener against class 4A Hudson, 50-30, Tuesday morning in The Hop.

Tournament co-host Grapeland fell to class 4A Rusk, 77-74, on the Sandies' home court.

The Sandies led 16-15 after a quarter, 42-35 at the break and 60-51 heading into the final period. Rusk caught fire in the fourth quarter and overcame the Sandies with a 26-14 run.

Riley Murchison, one of five double-digit scorers for the Sandies, pumped in 22 points and 13 rebounds to record a double-double. Cadarian Wiley also booked a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Johnny Lamb followed with 17 points, Lakerian Smith had 13 and Omarian Wiley added 12.

Tournament Pool play continued Wednesday in both Crockett and Grapeland gyms.

The 18-team tournament concludes Thursday with the Gold and Silver Bracket games slated in Crockett.

Bronze, Copper and Consolation Bracket games will take place in Grapeland.

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Bulldog hoopsters win district opener over Elks

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Crockett's D.J. Walker goes airborne on his way to a layup in the district opener against Elkhart on Friday. Walker led the scoring with 19 points. (LARRY LAMB|HCC)Crockett's D.J. Walker goes airborne on his way to a layup in the district opener against Elkhart on Friday. Walker led the scoring with 19 points. (LARRY LAMB|HCC)By Larry Lamb
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ELKHART – Crockett Bulldogs shook off a sluggish start to win their district opener 81-51 over the Elkhart Elks last Friday.

The upset-minded Elks led 15-13 after a quarter but watched their lead slip away in the second quarter as Crockett staged a 17-4 run to pull away 30-19.

After Elkhart answered with a 7-0 run to get within four with 1:45 left in the half, the Bulldogs rattled off a 10-0 run before halftime.

Jarodrick Holmes drained a trey with :25 left in the half and Jadyn Collins heaved in a buzzer-beater three to push Crockett’s lead to 40-26 at the break.

The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs came out of the locker room breathing fire and opened up their biggest lead, 55-31, with 4:20 left in the third and carried a 68-37 advantage into the final period.

“I don’t know it that’s a good thing, but that’s kind of who we are,” said Bulldog head coach Drae Murray in reference to his team’s second half sizzle after getting a sluggish start. “We’re a better third quarter team. I guess it takes me going into the locker room and raising my voice at them a little bit at halftime. They respond to it, but I told them we’ve got to get off to a better start. That’s one thing we’ve been working on. I don’t know if we need to switch up the routine, the warm-up or something else, but we’re not a good first quarter team and that’s not good.”

The Bulldogs have shown random flashes of their offensive potential, but Murray is still waiting for a dominating performance from tipoff to the final buzzer. 

“We haven’t put together a full 32 minutes yet, but we showed in spurts tonight how good we can be once we all dial in, lock in and play on the same page,” he said.

Top scorer D. J. Walker canned 10 points in the pivotal third quarter and finished the night with 19, including a pair of treys

Tayshawn Simon and Keshun Easterling canned 13 apiece and Holmes, who also drained a pair of threes, rounded out double figures with 10.

Courtney Byrd chipped in 8, Collins 7, Iverson Rischer 5, Ajani Ellis 4 and Bre’dron Tucker 2.

“We had a lot of guys that gave us sparks tonight. It was just an overall great team effort,” said Murray.

Both teams shot well at the charity stripe. The Bulldogs hit 8 of 9 while the Elks made 10 of 13.

For Elkhart, Cale Starr led a foursome of double-digit scorers with 14. Jayden Chapman  had 11, while Wyett Thomas and Tyler Stafford scored 10 each.

“I didn’t really know a lot about Elkhart coming in, but their coach is one of my good buddies and he’s got them playing the right way. I know they play hard, they’re getting better and they defend the ball really well. The way we were able to score on them is surprising. I know he wants to keep the game low-scoring, so that shows how good we can be offensively. A lot has to do with our offense, but they’re young and they’re going to get better,” said Murray.

The Bulldogs warmed up for their district opener against the Aggieland Home School Panthers and won 54-44 over the highly ranked freelance team.

The Panthers, ranked No. 13 in the state among freelance teams, will compete in this year’s Houston County Hoops Classic Dec. 28-30.

Leading 15-13 after a quarter, the Bulldogs opened the second with a 9-2 run. The Panthers answered with a 6-0 run and closed the gap to 26-21 at the half.

After halftime, Aggieland drained a trey to make it a two-point game before Crockett took control and dominated the rest of the quarter to pull away 49-30 lead.

Seizing  momentum in the final period, Aggieland outscored the Bulldogs 14-5.

Aggieland staged a 10-0 run and quickly whittled Crockett’s lead to nine, 49-40, with six minutes left.

The Bulldogs gained some breathing room with two straight buckets – one a three-pointer – for a 14-point lead.

Holmes was the only Crockett scorer reaching double figures with 15 points, including one trey.

Collins and Easterling each had 8, followed by Byrd and Walker with 7 apiece, Simon 4, Tucker 3 and Rischer 2.

Aggieland was led by junior Kaven Rollo, who drained four treys and finished with 14. Rollo’s father, Jeffrey Rollo of Lovelady, is athletic director and head basketball coach for both boys and girls.

Sam Cunningham also tossed in 13 for the Panthers.

After next week’s tournament, the Bulldogs resume district play Jan. 4 on the road against Groesbeck and host Buffalo on Jan. 7.

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Lady Dogs pick up district road win

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Crockett's Chelsea Walker wins the battle for a loose ball in Friday night's district game against Elkhart.  The Lady Bulldogs won 59-27. (LARRY LAMB |HCC)Crockett's Chelsea Walker wins the battle for a loose ball in Friday night's district game against Elkhart. The Lady Bulldogs won 59-27. (LARRY LAMB |HCC)

By Larry Lamb
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 ELKHART --After dropping a district home game to Franklin last Tuesday, the Crockett Lady Bulldogs knocked off Elkhart, 59-27, on the road Friday night.

Crockett (1-2) came out sizzling to take a 25-6 first quarter lead and carried a 35-18 lead into halftime.

In a low-scoring third quarter, the Lady Bulldogs outscored their hosts 8-4 for a 43-22 lead and put the game away with a 16-5 run in the fourth.

Tacorra Johnson, Crockett’s only double-digit scorer, booked 14 in the first half and finished with 16.

A’Nayah Wooten and Chelsea Walker each tossed in 9, Tania Davis had 8 and La’Kyriah Hamilton had 7.

Other scorers were Keaton Crabtree with 4, Stasia Parker with 3, Ty’Shonda Bell with 2 and Ty’Reyanna Beasley with 1.

Crockett and Elkhart both came into the game looking for their first district win. 

“We knew it was going to be rough playing here. It always is. I’ve been preaching all week that you can’t underestimate a team like Elkhart. You have to play hard, do your job and work on things we need to work on. We had mental mistakes at times when we couldn’t afford them, we had turnovers when we shouldn't have  and took some bad shots a couple of times,” said coach TaNesiah Johnson.

One player fouled out and four others – all starters -- were in foul trouble.

Expressing concern about her team’s high number of fouls, Johnson said, “We’ve got to nip our fouling. I’m averaging  one or two foul-outs every game. Girls are more hands-on, but we’ve got to learn to move our feet and just play. We got in foul trouble and that hurt us.”

“When we play a team like Franklin, Teague or Groesbeck we can’t afford that,” said Johnson. “We need to work on cutting down on fouls so that we’ll be ready when we play those teams.”

Coach Johnson added, “Besides this being a tough place to play, we had early release today at noon. We all stayed together and had a little Christmas team party and de-stressed while we were waiting. We got the job done, but we have a lot that we need to work on.”

With a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, Johnson was able to give her bench some playing time.

“I kept an eye on the scoreboard, though. I told the girls that in basketball it doesn’t matter how far you’re down, you can get back in it quickly,” the coach said. “I let everybody get involved. We did what we had to do and we got the W.”

Hosting Franklin last Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs came up short, 63-51.

The Lady Dogs gave Franklin a run their money, leading the visitors 12-10 after a quarter. Crockett opened up a six-point lead early in the second but fell behind 29-28 at the half.

“I thought we had them where we wanted them at halftime,” said Johnson.

After the Lady Dogs made it a two-point game with 3:00 left in the third, Franklin opened up a nine-point lead, 47-38, with a minute left in the quarter. A running jumper by Tacorra Johnson and a free throw closed the gap to 47-41 after three.

Crockett would get no closer. It was still an eight-point game with three minutes left, but two straight buckets gave Franklin a 59-47 lead with 2:10 left.

“We just missed too many easy shots, including a missed layup on our first possession of the game. We missed layup after layup that we should have made,” said coach Johnson, who noted only two players scored in double figures.

Johnson, who hit Crockett’s only trey, led with 16 and Wooten was right behind with 15.

Hamilton and Davis each chipped in 7, followed by Walker with 3, Crabtree 2 and Beasley with 1.

Franklin picked up almost half of its points on 11 three-pointers, including five by Riley Hood, who finished with 15 points. Riley Caldwell led all scorers with 17.

“You look at their side of the book and every player but one scored,” pointed out Johnson.

The coach was pleased that the Lady Dogs showed improvement at the line, shooting 10 of 19 for 53%. Franklin shot 12 of 25 for 48%.

“Free throw-wise we did what we were supposed to do, but Franklin just killed us on the boards,” said Johnson.

“Rebounding is where we struggled. They out-rebounded us and that hurt us big-time. They literally scored half of their points on second-chance shots. We’ve just got to come ready to play every game and get the job done. We worked on what we needed to do, but we didn’t execute.”

Another bright spot was that the Lady Dogs only had 10 turnovers in the second half. “That’s an accomplishment, but we didn’t do the little things like blocking out. We just didn’t play smart,” she said.

Before resuming their district schedule, the Lady Bulldogs will host Shepherd on Tuesday, Dec. 28 in the old high school gym due to the boys tourney being held.

The Lady Dogs travel to Groesbeck on Jan. 4 for their fourth district game.

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Lovelady's LaRue inks with BPCC

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Lovelady High School celebrated a happy occasion Wednesday, Dec. 8 when senior softball player Macie LaRue signed a letter of intent with Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. Macie is pictured with her parents, Jeremy and Ashley LaRue, Lady Lions head coach Jordyn Hester (back right) and assistant coach Kollyn McWhinney. (Larry Lamb/HCC Photo)Lovelady High School celebrated a happy occasion Wednesday, Dec. 8 when senior softball player Macie LaRue signed a letter of intent with Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. Macie is pictured with her parents, Jeremy and Ashley LaRue, Lady Lions head coach Jordyn Hester (back right) and assistant coach Kollyn McWhinney. (Larry Lamb/HCC Photo)

By Larry Lamb
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LOVELADY -- Macie La-Rue still has her senior softball season ahead of her, but the Lovelady High School athlete has already finalized her college plans.

LaRue signed a letter of intent with Bossier Parrish Community College during a ceremony last Wednesday in the LHS gym.

BPCC is a NJCAA Division I program located in Bossier City, La.

Lady Lions head coach Jordyn Hester said LaRue's work ethic makes her a valuable asset to the Lady Lions and the BPCC Lady Cavaliers can expect the same effort.

"Macie's best attribution to the team is that she works harder than anybody 100 percent of the time. Every weekend when I come to the field to work on it or I'm driving by, she is constantly doing extra. She's always staying after practice. Even after our last playoff game this past season we played into June and the next day she went to select ball practice," said Hester. "She's just constantly trying to get better and she wants to always learn. She's a forever learner and that's going to be why she'll be so successful in college. Just because of how hard she works."

LaRue's dream of playing college softball began at age six in the local youth program.

She started playing on the Lady Lions varsity as a freshman and has earned Academic All-District honors each year. 

She also received second team all-district honors as a freshman but did not have a chance to demonstrate her prowess as a sophomore when the season was cancelled due to the pandemic.

She made up for it her junior season, earning District Co-Pitcher of the Year honors along with teammate MiMi Sandoval. She also received honorable mention from the Texas Sports Writers as a pitcher last year.

LaRue’s advice for other aspiring college-level players is, “Keep at it. Don’t let other people determine your outcome.”

LaRue plans on majoring in business, but hasn’t settled on a specific career goal.

Hester has watched LaRue progress over the past four seasons, the last three as the Lady Lions’ head coach.

“The way that she has improved between her freshman year to her senior year has been crazy to watch,” said Hester. “She is so talented and she’s only gotten better. I can’t wait to see how well she does in college.”

BPCC plays several East Texas college teams, including Angelina, Trinity Valley and Kilgore.

“She’ll play close by when they’re on the road and I can’t wait to see her. She’s going to be super successful and as much as she’s progressed the last four years I can’t imagine how much she’s going to progress over the next two,” said Hester.

The Lady Cavaliers finished the 2021 season with a 46-8 overall record, which was the most wins in program history, and a 23-1 conference record. They captured first in Region XIV East Division. BPCC was ranked as high as No. 8 in NJCAA DI, which equaled the program’s highest ranking.

LaRue is the second Lovelady softball player to  sign with a college this year.  Senior Mihyia Davis recently signed with the University of Louisiana - Lafayette.

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