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Sandie hoopsters off to hot start

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Grapeland Sandies Hoopsters 250The Grapeland Sandies won their first three outings of the 2021 hoops season by comfortable margins against higher classification teams.

Coach Blake Doughty's crew opened the season by beating class 3A  Elkhart 84-46, class 4A Cumberland Academy of Tyler 77-55 and class 3A Corsicana Mildred 75-55.

Grapeland, the defending class 2A state runner-up, is ranked No. 18 in this week's TABC state poll. See Page 2B for the latest rankings.

After the Madisonville Classic this weekend, the Sandies will take on class 3A Brock on Wednesday, Dec. 8 in Athens.

Hosting Elkhart in their opener on Nov. 19, the Sandies came out full force and overwhelmed their guests in the first quarter by  building a 40-15 lead. Grapeland led 64-35 at the end of three and outscored the Elks by nine in the final frame.

Four Sandies scored in double figures led by junior Omarian Wiley and senior Cadarian Wiley with 20 points apiece. Both hot-handed shooters only missed two shots from the field.

O. Wiley made 8 of 10 deuces and led defensively with six steals. C. Wiley was 10 of 12 from the floor and led on the  boards with nine rebounds.

Senior Lakerina Smith and junior Zandric Anderson rounded out double figures with 13 and 10, respectively.

Other scorers were Riley Murchison with 7, Landon Jackson 5, Trey Davison 5, Kionte Willis 2 and Jax Vickers 2.

Cumberland Academy came to town Nov. 22 and fell to the Sandies 77-55.

After leading by just three early, the Sandies outscored Cumberland by 11 in the second to pull away 45-31 at the half. Grapeland carried a 20-point lead into the final frame.

Murchison, a junior, led a foursome of double-digit scorers with 22. He was 7 of 9 from the field and 5 of 7 at the line.

O. Wiley recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. C. Wiley scored 15 and junior Johnny Lamb had 11, including three treys.

The Sandies still had the winning touch hitting the road for the first time as they handled class 3A Mildred 75-55.

Grapeland led 37-24 at the break and then doubled up the Eagles 24 to 12 in the third to blow the game open with a 61-36 lead

O. Wiley paced the offense with 26 points and Murchison rattled in 20. He was 7 of 8 from the field along with booking 6 assists and 5 steals. C. Wiley recorded his second double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

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Dogs prove they can hang with the big boys Crockett handles 6A Pasadena

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Crockett's Jadyn Collins is guarded by Navasota's Dangelo Jackson as he drives to the hoop in a matchup on Monday, Nov. 22 at The Hop. The Bulldogs beat the class 4A Rattlers 58-49 and the next day knocked off class 6A Pasadena 60-47. (LARRY LAMB   HCC PHOTO)Crockett's Jadyn Collins is guarded by Navasota's Dangelo Jackson as he drives to the hoop in a matchup on Monday, Nov. 22 at The Hop. The Bulldogs beat the class 4A Rattlers 58-49 and the next day knocked off class 6A Pasadena 60-47. (LARRY LAMB HCC PHOTO)

By Larry Lamb
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CROCKETT -- The late-starting Crockett Bulldogs are still getting their basketball legs under them, but their performance last Tuesday afternoon was still good enough for them to knock off a class 6A squad.

Coach Drae Murray’s crew handily defeated the visiting Pasadena Eagles, 60-46, in The Hop.

“It was a good win for us. We had to show our guys we can play against any classification. It doesn’t matter. Levels don’t mean anything in basketball because there’s only a certain number of guys you can put on a court in every level. Any level can beat any level. We have to get our guys to see that Crockett basketball can play with anybody. I really believe that,” said Murray, whose team knocked off class 4A Navasota 58-49 a day before the Pasadena game.

This was only the fourth game for the Bulldogs (3-1) while Pasadena has eight games under its belt.

“Pasadena just finished a tournament, so they’ve already played seven games before this one,” pointed out Murray.

“They lost one of their best players who transferred to another school but they still have their other three main guys who are really good. We were able to shut down one of their top guys – No. 3 – who got in foul trouble. Their big man wasn’t too much of a factor,” added Murray.

Pasadena won its district last year and was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.

After leading Pasadena by five at the end of the first two quarters, 15-10 and 30-25, the Bulldogs outscored their guests by six in their third to pull away 49-38.

“We came out and matched them blow-for-blow—we’d score, then they’d score. Eventually we settled in and were able to force some turnovers early. That’s our thing. We want to force turnovers and get out in transition run. That's what we do well and we were able to do that. We got some easy layups that helped us build a pretty comfortable lead,” said Murray.

Junior Jadyn Collins scored 16 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 19.

After a scoreless first half, junior Courtney Byrd heated up and scored 11 in the third quarter on the way to a 16-point game.

“Jadyn played well for us again and Courtney was a force inside,” said Murray.

Senior Tayshawn Simon rounded out double figures with 12. Delvin Walker chipped in 5, Keshun Easterling 4, Bre’dron Tucker 2 and Iverson Rischer 2

“Iverson came off the bench and gave us some good minutes. It probably doesn’t show on the stat sheets, but defensively he did a great job rebounding. He’s just a sophomore and he’s been playing good lately, so that’s a plus going deeper into the season,” said Murray.

Pasadena, which slipped to 3-5, had three double-digit scorers who accounted for all but four of its points.

“I think the big factor was that we’re really good at transition and really fast. My high school coach was here today watching and the first thing he said to me was, ‘you guys are really fast’. We knew we were the most athletic team today and I told my guys if we’re going to beat this team we’ve got to run. That’s what we did. One of the things I put on our board during the pregame speech was run-run-run. We did that against Pasadena but we have to get better at rebounding,” said the coach.

Murray said another advantage is the Bulldogs’ deep bench.

“We’re really deep. On any night, somebody different can step up for us. Today, our sophomore starting guard Jarodrick Holmes didn’t have a good game but Iverson (Rischer) stepped in and picked up the slack. They’re both sophomores who are best friends, so it’s good to have a guy you can depend on.”

The Bulldogs’ conditioning improves with each game, added Murray.

“We started working on conditioning after our first game against Mumford. I put in a drill where the players have to make a certain number of shots. If you don’t make the shots in a specified amount of time, you have to run. I knew we wouldn’t make those shots. I was just trying to get in some conditioning instead of telling them to run. We did the drill twice and missed, so we did 50 sprints. The guys were gassed. They were laying on the floor,” said Murray.

The Bulldogs have played four games since their season opener Nov. 16.

“We’ve been conditioning a lot. We’ve played so many games back-to-back so we haven’t had very many practices, but when we do practice, we devote a lot of time to conditioning. You can tell it’s paying off for us. We’re getting better every game,” said Murray.

Against Navasota, the Bulldogs outscored the Rattlers by 10 in the second period to take a 37-23 lead into halftime The Rattlers closed the gap to six, 47-41, in the third period but the Bulldogs finished strong for the 58-49 victory.

Byrd and Walker each canned 15 to pace the Bulldogs. Collins had 9, Simon 8, Holmes 5, Tucker 4 and Rischer 2.

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Bulldogs off and running under new hoops coach

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Crockett’s Delvin Walker (4) brings the ball down the floor against Mumford in the season opener.Crockett’s Delvin Walker (4) brings the ball down the floor against Mumford in the season opener. (Larry Lamb - HCC)

By Larry Lamb
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Making a quick transition from football to the hardwood, the Crockett Bulldogs dropped their season opener to Mumford, 55-51 and then won their next two over Anderson-Shiro, 70-50, and Navasota, 58-49.

In their debut at The Hop last Tuesday, the Bulldogs led Mumford 33-29 at the half and opened up a 10-point lead midway through the third only to see it dwindle to 46-43 at the end of the quarter.

“We were knocking on the door to put them away in the third and they fought back. We don’t communicate and miss a three. Then we give up a three and go eight minutes without scoring a basket,” said new Bulldog head coach Drae Murray.

Senior Delvin Walker led the Bulldogs with 16 (1 trey) and junior Courtney Byrd was close behind with 12.

Rounding out the scoring were sophomore Jarodrick Holmes with 9 (1 trey) and senior Tayshawn Simon 7 (1 trey). Juniors Ajani Ellis 3 and Bredron Tucker each drained a trey, while senior Keshun Easterling and sophomore Iverson Rischer tossed in 2 apiece.

Mumford (2-1), ranked No. 4 in this week’s TABC class 2A state poll, was led by junior LeAnthony Dykes with 24 points and senior Desmond Gamble with 16, including four treys.

Crockett’s returning players are Walker, Byrd, Easterling, Simon, Tucker and junior Jadyn Collins, who was “banged up a little bit” and sat out the opener.

Senior Tamarion Manning and sophomore Antwaain Boston round out the varsity unit.

Murray is expecting big things from his underclassmen.

“Jarodrick (Holmes) is a sophomore who can really shoot the ball. He had a big three for us against Mumford, but it just wasn’t enough,” said Murray.

“We’ve only had two practices with everybody since football just ended. You could tell how that affected us fatigue-wise. We had the lead up to 10 in the third quarter and fatigue        finally

kicked in,” said Murray.     “We’ve got a lot of things to correct on the defensive end as well as defensive rebounding. The good thing is those problems can be cleaned up. Once we get all the kinks worked out we’ll be fine.”

Murray said the Bulldogs’ strength will be their ability to run.

“Our style is being a fast-running, up-tempo  team. The times when we made runs (against Mumford) were because we able to get those defensive rebounds, run and push the ball up the court. We had a lot of easy buckets that helped us get the lead to 10 by just getting the ball out, running and making the easy lay-ups. Once fatigue set in, that went away from us.

Murray, a Huntsville native, played for the Huntsville High School Hornets and Sam Houston Bearkats.

“After college, I wanted to test the waters playing basketball overseas for a couple of seasons,” said Murray, who decided to get into coaching high school sports. He was an assistant at Bryan for

one year and then returned to his high school alma mater for a three-year stint before landing his first head coach position at Crockett.

“I’m familiar with Crockett. I used to come up here and play in the Outlaw hoops tournament which we won the first two years when they started it,” recalled Murray. “The Crockett community has  been good to me and it feels like my second home.”

The Bulldogs return to action Tuesday, Nov. 30 at home against class 4A Ferris. The Dogs get their first taste of tournament competition in the Madisonville Classic Dec. 2-4.

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Top-ranked Mart fends off Lovelady

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EasterlingPowersIntoEZ8734Lovelady's Shaun Easterling (32) powers his way into the end zone for a fourth-quarter touchdown against top-ranked Mart in the area round Friday night. (LAWANNA MONK Photo HCC)

By Lawanna Monk

MADISONVILLE – Lovelady's football season ended with a 42-16 loss to undefeated, top-ranked Mart in the area round Friday night at Mustang Stadium.

Using a ball-control strategy, the Lions were able to keep the ball out of Mart's hands early and hold the Panthers scoreless in the first quarter. Mart, which only had four snaps in the opening period, eventually scored in the second to take a 14-0 halftime lead.

After Mart stretched its lead to 28-0 in the third, the Lions made it 28-16 midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers added another TD with 1:30 left in the game.

Mart (12-0) moves on to the third round where it faces Wortham (7-5) at 2 p.m. Friday in Mexia.

Wortham, a 38-22 area round winner over West Sabine, finished fourth in its district and beat Maud, 45-36, in bi-district.

The Lions started their first possession with good field position after Keivon Skinner returned Mart's kickoff 12 yards to the Lion 27. Three straight carries by Shaun Easterling moved the Lions across midfield to the Mart 40 before they turned the ball over on a fumble at the 38.

Lovelady's defense struck HARD and forced the Panthers to punt on a three-and-out series. Connor Martinez shut down the first two plays for losses and on third down the Panther running back was chased out of bounds, bringing up a punting situation on fourth-and-11.

The Lions started their second series at the 30 after another good return by K. Skinner. Quarterback Slade Murray guided his team in a drive that reached the Panther 11 before falling just short of the first down marker. Murray, Easterling and Martinez all contributed yardage behind great blocking by the rest of the team.

Mart only had four snaps in the first quarter as a result of Lovelady's ball control strategy that kept the Panther offense on the sidelines.

The Panthers finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter after intercepting a pass at their own 20. Quarterback Trey Powell capped the seven-play drive on 34-yard run and the PAT put Mart up 7-0 with 8:06 on the clock.

In the second quarter Mart's offense took over on downs, but the Lion defense stepped up to force a punt. After Skylar Pipkin recorded a 3-yard TFL on the first play, pressure by Dayvian Skinner forced an incomplete pass. Skinner allowed a 7-yard gain on a third-down pass, forcing a Mart pass that rolled dead at the Lion 44.

The Lions made their way deep into Panther territory before turning the ball over on downs at the Mart 26. Murray handed off to Easterling and Martinez, who kept the ball moving until the Panther defense finally dug in its heels with a fourth down stop.

The Panthers took over and drove 74 yards down the field to score on a 26-yard pass from Powell to Brandon Lundy with 1:05 left in the half. The PAT made it 14-0.

Murray was injured playing defense in the second quarter and was sidelined the rest of the game.

Mart struck for two touchdowns in the third quarter to go up 28-0.

The Panthers returned K. Skinner's second half kick 13 yards to the 38 and scored nine plays later on a 4-yard run by Powell with 10:34 in the third.

After returning a punt by Pipkin to the Lion 40, Mart scored three plays later on a 21-yard run by the quarterback with 8:13 to go in the third quarter.

Late in the third, the Lions turned the ball over on downs at the Panther 2 yard line and kept the Panthers pinned back. After Brandon Fry set the Panthers back at the 1 on first down, Mart completed a pass out to the 6, where Fry and Gilchrist made the tackle on the final play of the quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Martinez and McFarland sacked the quarterback in the end zone for a safety to make it 28-2.

After giving up the safety, Mart kicked off the 20 and K. Skinner returned it to the Lion 45. Two plays later the Lions were in the end zone after D. Skinner reeled off a 52-yard run to the 3 yard line. Easterling, who took the reins as quarterback after Murray's injury, scored on the next play to make it 28-8 with 11:10 left in the game. A 2-point conversion failed.

After Gilchrist recovered a Mart fumble at the 3 yard line and the Lions drove the length of the field to make it a two-touchdown game.

Easterling picked up a yard on a first down keeper, D. Skinner gained 4 and Easterling fell just inches short of a first down. On fourth-and-inches, Easterling connected with Gilchrist, who caught the ball at midfield and carried it to the 16 before being brought down. D. Skinner carried for 2 and Easterling was sacked for a 4-yard loss but a Mart penalty put the Lions on the 8 yard line. Easterling powered his way into the end zone on the next play and D. Skinner carried the conversion to make it 28-16 with 6:26 left.

An onside kick by McFarland was fielded by Mart it its 48-yard line and the Panthers scored six plays later. Robert Hickman gave the Panthers some breathing room on a 25-yard run and the extra point made it 35-16 with 4:22 left.

Mart's final score came with 1:30 left after a defensive stand at the Lion 30. The Panthers scored on their first play and kicked the extra point.

This was the final game for 11 Lovelady seniors who have been a great part of Lion Pride during their careers. The senior crew consisted of Slade Murray (7), Keivon Skinner (9), Joshua Gilchrease (11), Connor Martinez (13), Scotty Moore (17), Caleb Gilchrist (31), Shamar Terry, who missed much of his senior season due to injury, Aiden Moore (63), Matthew McFarland (70), Peyton Harrison (72) and Jayden Gutierrez (83).

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Lady Lions roll to 4-0 record

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Lovelady Lady LionsLovelady Lady Lions are living up to the No. 8 state ranking they received in this week's state poll issued by the Texas Assocation of Basketball Coaches.

The Lady Lions improved their record to 4-0 with a 79-58 home win over Douglass on Friday after back-to-back road wins over Huntington and The Woodlands Christian Academy.

Against Douglass, the Lady Lions trailed 23-16 after a quarter but dominated the second frame 20-4 to pull ahead 36-27 at halftime.

After both teams scored 16 in the third, Lovelady carried a 52-43 lead into the fourth and outscored their guests by 12 to ice the win.

Freshman Lexi Price and senior Mihyia Davis shared top scorer honors with 21 apiece, while senior Shyanne Pipkin and sophomore Aaliyah Jones rounded out double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Shelby Pugh chipped in 6, Haley Davidson 5 and Chelsea Butler 2.

This was the first loss for Douglass, which slipped to 1-2 on the year.

Travelling to Huntington on Nov. 16, the Lady Lions jumped out to a 20-6 first quarter lead over the class 3A Lady Devils and continued to pull away over the next three quarters to win it 70-37.

Lovelady led 40-18 at the half and 56-23 after three.

Price pumped in a game-high 25 and Davis followed with 18.

Rounding out the scoring were Jones with 7, Pipkin 5, Davidson 5, Arris LeMaire 4, Butler 3, Pugh 2 and Jada Johnson 1. 

Hitting the road for their third game Nov. 19, the Lady Lions took down The Woodlands Christian Academy, a class 5A private school. 

TWCA kept Lovelady within reach for the first half. Lovelady led 14-7 after a quarter and 26-21at the break. The Lady Lions pulled away in the third quarter, 42-26.

Price and Davis again paced the Lady Lions with 18 and 11, respectively. They were followed by Pipkin with 7, Jones 6, Davidson 6 and Butler 2.

Lovelady continued its tough schedule when it hosted class 4A Madisonville on Tuesday.

After Thanksgiving, the Lady Lions travel to Anderson-Shiro on Tuesday, Nov. 30 and then compete in the Hudson Tournament Dec. 2-4.

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