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Grapeland boys win playoff opener

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IMG 0874LARRY LAMB | HCC Besides putting on a three-point clinic, senior B. J. Lamb dazzled fans when he slammed the ball home during the Sandies’ 87-68 bi-district win over Frankston.

By Larry Lamb

“Lose-the-flip-win-the game.”

That hashtag posted on social media became the battle cry for the Grapeland Sandies going into their bi-district game against Frankston on Saturday, Feb. 20.

After plans to play the game at Rusk fell through due to weather-related issues, the two schools agreed on flipping for home-and-home.

Frankston won the coin toss but home court advantage was not enough for the Indians to overcome the No. 3 ranked Sandies, who prevailed 87-68.

The Sandies jumped out to an 11-2 lead but after Frankston cut the lead to two, the Sandies closed out the quarter with a 13-6 run.

Led by senior B.J. Lamb’s five-of-five trey barrage, the Sandies pulled away to lead 29-20 at the end of the first.

The Trinity Valley Community College football recruit dazzled fans when he stole the ball and raced down the floor for a slam dunk.

Then Lamb drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to boost his first quarter total to 17 points and give the Sandies a nine-point lead.

Although his family’s home was destroyed by fire earlier in the week, Lamb was able to overcome adversity and focus on the game.

Lamb, who finished the night with seven treys, booked a game-high 33 points and 11 assists to attain double-double status.

Frankston stayed close early in the second period but saw the Sandies rattle off a 21-5 run in the final five minutes of the half to pull away 54-32.

After Grapeland took its biggest lead of 30 points early in the third, Frankston answered with a 13-2 flurry to get within 19.

The Sandies answered with a big run, however, to push their lead out to 73-49 heading into the final period.

The Indians stayed alive with another 13-2 run that whittled the gap down to 75-62 with 3:40 left.

But Frankston’s hopes of a miracle finish evaporated with a 12-6 run by the Sandies down the stretch.

Two other Sandies joined Lamb with double-doubles.

Cadarian Wiley was right behind him with 32 points and 12 rebounds.

Wiley scored six in the first quarter, 10 in the second and eight in each of the last two frames.

Keizion Ashford buried three treys and tallied 12 points along with 10 assists.

Riley Murchison contributed six points on a pair of treys, Omarian Wiley chipped in four and Michael Dancer had two.

In an earlier bi-district game in the Frankston gym, top-ranked Martin’s Mill defeated Lovelady 90-41.

Fans were already speculating about a possible third round clash pitting the Sandies and Martin’s Mill.

Grapeland defeated Mart 74-44 in the area round and Martin’s Mill edged Rosebud-Lott 59-42 to set up a showdown in the regional quarterfinals Saturday, Feb. 27 in Frankston.

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New homeschool hoops team building for the future

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IMG 1312LARRY LAMB | HCC East Texas Archers head coach Detrick Watts talks to players during a time-out against Crockett.

By Larry Lamb

Homeschool students in the Houston County area now have an opportunity to play on a basketball team close to home.

The East Texas Archers, based in Lovelady, have already played 21 games during their inaugural season.

“We’re a first-year homeschool boys team with all freshman and sophomore players. These are young kids ranging from age 13 to 16,” explained Jeff Rollo, who co-organized the program with Archers head coach Detrick Watts.

“There’s nothing really in Deep East Texas for homeschool athletes,” said Rollo, noting that his children played for the Aggieland HomeSchool Panthers in College Station several years ago when they were homeschooled. “There are several homeschool teams in the Houston area but we wanted to provide an opportunity for homeschool kids in this area to play basketball without having to travel so far just to practice.”

Playing a mixture of high school varsity teams, private schools and homeschool teams, the Archers have compiled a 10-11 record.

The Archers haven’t backed away from playing powerhouse teams.

The Archers took on the Crockett Bulldogs (6-2), a class 3A UIL squad, on Dec. 31 in the Hopkins Activity Center in Crockett. Although the Archers fell 76-44, Rollo says playing high-caliber teams like Crockett is going to pay off down the road. Two of the Archers’ earlier losses were to defending UIL Class 1A state champion LaPoynor and TAPPS 2A champion Alpha Omega Academy of Huntsville.

After the Crockett game, the Archers fell to class 2A Normangee, 73-48, and then posted back-to-back wins over Aggieland HomeSchool, 67-53, and Still Creek Christian (Bryan), 48-30 .

Earlier this season, the Archers notched impressive tournament wins over two private schools. They knocked off Rosehill Christian (Tomball), the sixth-ranked private school team, 54-46, and Bay Area Christian, 68-55, in back-to-back games. “Those were the two best games that we’ve played but since then we’ve lost about five in a row,” said Rollo.

The Archers’ roster includes Jaedin Watts, Brycen Watts, Kaven Rollo, A.J. Frizzell, Ethan Jones, Trent Goodall, John Sullivan, Shayne Cox, Braden Kovar, Josh Nutt and Levi Smith. Players are from Lovelady as well as Latexo, College Station, Willis, Huntsville, Palestine and Trinity.

“We have some varsity-caliber kids and then we have some that had never played. We have some with one or two years of experience,” said Rollo. “When we first started this we had three players and now we have a total of 11. Most of these kids did not know each other. Now they’re developing team chemistry and camaraderie.”

Rollo explained that National Homeschool Basketball rules specify that students can play on a team if they live within a 100-mile radius, but they must be “true homeschool students” not enrolled in a public or private school.

When the homeschool playoffs begin the Archers will compete in the 16-under division. Playoffs start with the district tournament in Houston, followed by regional in Duncanville, state in Round Rock and nationals in Springfield, Mo.
Without the luxury of a home gym, the Archers are true road warriors.

“We’re always the underdog, the away team. You’re not going to get any calls. You’re not going to get any love. Nobody knows who you are,” said Rollo. “I like to say that we’re homeschooled, but we’re homeless without a home gym.”

Lack of consistency has been the main issue so far.

“We see spurts. We’ve played pretty good basketball at times but it’s about consistency. We don’t have a lot of skilled players that you could put in and out, so you get worn down during a game. It’s all about trying to get better for the future,” he said.

Homeschool teams are not restricted in the number of games they can play so the Archers are planning 45 to 50 games.

“We still have a lot of basketball to be played. These are great kids, very respectful and we’re learning and growing. I explain it as a big brother-little brother situation. Little brother is going to take his licks early but then little brother is going to grow and get stronger. We schedule tough teams because we want a gauging stick. We want to play games that are tough and difficult. It’s only going to make us better,” Rollo said.

Rollo, who coached the Lovelady High School girls program four years, said plans call for the addition of a girls program next year, eventually expanding to more age groups. Rollo will be the girls team head coach and Watts will assist.

“We’re all in it together. We try to bring our knowledge, our passion and our love of the game,” he said.

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Lamar Cardinals sign Lovelady lineman

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IMG 0907COURTESY PHOTO Lovelady senior Carter Murray signs a National Letter of Intent to play football with Lamar University in Beaumont during a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 16 in the LHS gym.

By Larry Lamb

Lamar University landed a big man to bolster its offensive line with the signing of Lovelady senior Carter Murray during a ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 16 in the LHS gym.

Murray was one of five offensive linemen Lamar signed to National Letters of Intent on Early Signing Day.

The 6-3, 290-pound tackle was a four-year starter for the Lions on both sides of the ball.

Kilgore College, Sam Houston State and Rice University also had their eyes on Murray. “None were as interested in me as Lamar. They kept in contact with me, their coaches are really good and the facilities are nice. I just liked everything about it,” he explained.

“A whole new coaching staff came in last December. Coach (Dane) Morgan was previously at San Diego State and always had a good record there, so I feel like it’s going to be a good ride,” said the future Cardinal. “I’m excited about what’s next.”

Carter, son of David and Michelle Murray, hasn’t decided on a major. “I plan to get the basics done first and then decide on what I’ll major in,” he said.

Murray’s senior football season was cut short by meniscus surgery which sidelined him after the regular season. “I missed the two playoff games because if I had waited and not had the surgery I wouldn’t have been ready for baseball,” said Murray, who is a standout player for the Lions baseball team. “I’m ready for baseball.”

“I really grew up playing baseball but football kind of just fell into me. I knew I could go to the next level and play football, so I started to take that seriously and work hard at it,” he continued.

Murray said the most memorable football game was his during freshman season when the Lions defeated Alto 22-20 in bi-district. “Being a freshman starter in my first playoff game made it special and it was probably the best game that we’ve ever played as a team. The atmosphere was amazing. There’s no other feeling like that.”

Lovelady athletic director/head football coach Will Kirchhoff said, “He’s an exceptional young man, a great football player and an even better person.”

The coach continued, “I’ve watched him grow from freshman year all the way to where he is now so I feel like he’s one of my own. He’s going to carry all the things I’ve seen him grow into and keep growing in the next level, so we’re really excited about seeing where he’s going.”

In addition to Murray’s obvious physical changes, Kirchhoff noted, “His biggest change has been the mentality and the leadership that he brings to the table. Every single play is important to him on both sides of the football. He’s had such an impact on our program in changing the way that we play football, which is physical hard-nose offense running the football down your throat. He’s been a big piece of that puzzle. Basing your offense around a right tackle is rare but when you’ve got one as good as Carter it’s something that you can do.”

As a junior Murray received honorable mention All-East Texas and All-State. At the Texas Top 100 combine last year, Murray was named as the top five offensive linemen in Classes 1A through 6A.

Murray was District 11-2A DII Lineman of the Year this past season and is a likely to be a repeat as All-State honoree when the 2020 selections are announced.

“Carter was one of those kids that everyone in the district always asked me whether he’s graduated yet because he’s dominated this district for the last four years on both sides of the ball. I hate to see him go but I’m excited to see where he’s going. If he carries that Lovelady work ethic to the next level he’ll do just fine,” said Kirchhoff.

“To be as successful as he has been is just a testament to his character and all the work that he’s put in because year after year he just keeps getting better,” added Kirchhoff.

Murray has played every position on the offensive line.

“That’s a testament to how high his football IQ is and that’s his big attribute. No matter where you plug him in he understands the big picture and can handle those jobs. That’s a huge thing that Lamar’s going to get out of him. No matter where they put him he’s going to be able to execute at a high level and he’s going to understand exactly what’s going on,” said Kirchhoff.

“Lamar noticed on film how he picks up different schemes, no matter what defenses throw at him. He not only can get his job done but he can make sure everyone on the O-line is in their right place and he does a great job directing those guys. But for football IQ and physicality, Lamar got a gem I assure you,” summed up Kirchhoff.

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Bulldogs knock down 12 treys in blasting Elkhart

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IMG 0767LARRY LAMB | HCC Crockett’s Delvin Walker launches one of his seven three-pointers against Elkhart in the district opener.

By Larry Lamb

You’d never know the Crockett Bulldogs had only played two games before their district opener.

The Bulldogs swooshed in 12 three-point shots as they raced past Elkhart 86-39 Tuesday, Dec. 15 at The Hop in Crockett.

“This was only our third game with probably just 15 practices,” said Bulldog head coach Jordan Caldwell, noting that Elkhart had played eight games and came in with a 4-4 record.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 25-10 first quarter lead and increased it to 50-29 by halftime. Outscoring the Elks 18-9 in the last two quarters, Crockett carried a 68-28 lead into the final period.

The Bulldogs put on a three-point shooting clinic behind junior Delvin Walker, who buried seven from behind the arc. Jadyn Collins drained two while Tayshawn Simon, Ty White and Ja’Lyne Carruthers each nailed a trey for a team total of 12.

Walker finished with 25 points to pace the Bulldogs. White tossed in 13 points, all in the first half, while Keshun Easterling and Jadyn Collins booked 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Rounding out the scoring were Chris Purvis with eight, Courtney Byrd six, Carruthers four and Simon three. Carlester Nealy, Bre’Dron Tucker and Jalen Patton chipped in two apiece.

Elkhart sophomore Cale Starr pumped in five treys and accounted for 28 of the Elks’ 39 points.

“I’m very satisfied with the way we played tonight. As a unit everybody did good. Elkhart played a heck of a game,” Caldwell continued.

He said individual standouts were Delvin Walker with his seven three-pointers, point guard Ty White and guard Tayshawn Simon. “Delvin’s only a junior so his future playing basketball is very bright,” added Caldwell.

Caldwell noted the Bulldogs only practiced once before their 56-36 season opener loss New Waverly.

“Hats off to New Waverly. They’re a great team,” said Caldwell, noting that New Waverly has earned a spot in the state polls. New Waverly (9-1) was ranked No. 14 in the TABC poll issued Dec. 21. Crockett was ranked No. 7 in early polls but has since dropped out.

“We’re still learning. We’re obviously young but we have a lot of players who came back. I think we definitely have the potential to go far,” said Caldwell.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) closed out pre-holiday action by beating district rival Groesbeck 87-46 on Dec.18.

Before resuming district play Jan. 5 at Buffalo, Crockett will travel to Pollok Central Dec. 29 and host a varsity home game Dec. 31 at noon against the East Texas Archers, a team comprised of homeschool students in the Lovelady area.

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Crockett boys edge Madisonville in home debut

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IMG 0570LARRY LAMB | HCC Madisonville’s Casey Holliday (4) tries to wrestle the ball away from Crockett’s Chris Purvis-Torres during a non-district game Tuesday, Dec. 8 at The Hop. The Bulldogs won 48-44 to even their record at 1-1.

By Larry Lamb

Crockett and Madisonville’s hardwood reunion after a two-year hiatus exceeded fans’ expectations.

The Bulldogs fended off the class 4A Mustangs in the closing minutes to win their home opener 48-44 Tuesday, Dec. 8 at The Hop.

Madisonville had an early 9-7 lead but never led again as Crockett went ahead 15-11 at the end of the first quarter.

The Mustangs got within a point several times over the next three quarters, but Crockett led 24-19 at the break and 35-31 at the end of three.

After Madisonville opened the fourth with a bucket to make it a two-point game, Delvin Walker heaved in a three-pointer and Jadyn Collins canned a bucket to put Crockett up 40-33 with 6:27 left.

After the Mustangs cut it to five, Walker slammed down a dunk to put Crockett up 42-35 with 5:15 to go.

Back-to-back buckets by Madisonville made it a three-point game before Tayshawn Simon swooshed in a trey to give the Bulldogs some breathing room with a 45-39 lead at the 3:30 mark.

The Mustangs refused to go away quietly, scoring two straight buckets and a free throw to get within a point, 45-44, with 2:41 left.

After several scoreless possessions by both teams, Walker went back to the hole with :30 left to give Crockett a three-point cushion. Simon went to the line with :18 left and hit the front end of a one-and-one for a 48-44 lead.

Madisonville missed the front end of a one-and-one with :13 left but got the rebound and put up an errant shot that was knocked out of bounds. The Bulldogs inbounded with :11 left and ran out the clock.

Six Bulldogs scored, but none were able to crack double figures. Collins (1 trey), Simon (2 treys) and Walker (1 trey) scored nine apiece. Chris Purvis-Torres had eight, Tyvondrick White seven (1 trey) and Courtney Byrd rounded out the scoring with six.

Madisonville’s Casey Holliday was the only double-digit scorer for either team with 16.

This was only the second game for the Bulldogs while the Mustangs had already played six games.

After starting their district schedule against Elkhart and Groesbeck before the holiday break, the Bulldogs will sandwich in a pair of non-district games with Pollok Central on the road Tuesday, Dec. 29 and East Texas Archers of Lovelady at home on Dec. 31. The Archers team is comprised of home school athletes in the area.

Crockett gets back to district action Jan. 5 at Buffalo.

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