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Grapeland eyes state crown

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 MG 5696PHOTO BY MARSHA COOK Grapeland sophomore Riley Murchison drains one of his six 3-pointers over Schulenburg’s Keisean Johnson in the state semifinal Tuesday.

By Larry Lamb

The Grapeland Sandies are one win away from bringing home the school’s second boys basketball state championship.

The Sandies (29-1) handled Schulenburg 74-60 in the state semifinal Tuesday night in Aldine ISD’s Campbell Center and advanced to the Class 2A championship game against Clarendon (24-4) Saturday in San Antonio. Tip-off is 10 a.m. in the Alamodome.

Since winning the 1985 state crown, Grapeland has made tournament appearances in 1999, 2001, 2014 and 2017 but hasn’t been able to get past the semifinal round.

Now that the 2021 Sandies have crashed through the semifinal barrier, the Clarendon Broncos are the last obstacle to the gold.

Clarendon, located in the panhandle east of Amarillo, beat Lipan 68-47 in the state semifinal.

This is Clarendon’s fifth appearance in the state tournament but the Broncos have never won a title.

Both Grapeland and Clarendon reached the Final Four in 2017 and lost to Muenster. Muenster beat the Sandies 56-52 (OT) in the state semifinal and then knocked off Clarendon 73-45 in the championship game.

In addition to a trip to state in 2010, Clarendon made two appearances in 1968 and 1969 as a class 1A school. Clarendon’s ’69 team fell to Kennard in the championship game.

With the state crown on the line Saturday, Grapeland hopes to duplicate the first quarter offensive firestorm it unleashed against Schulenburg.

Paced by Cadarian Wiley’s 11 points in the opening period, the Sandies raced out to a 26-6 lead.

Schulenburg opened the second with a 7-0 run to slice the lead in half but saw Grapeland open up a 21-point edge. The Shorthorns were able to cut the lead to 45-29 at halftime.

Schulenburg came out energized in the third and scored three unanswered baskets to make it a 10-point game.

Wiley finally broke the scoring ice with a free throw at the 5:45 mark but two quick buckets by Schulenburg trimmed the gap to seven, 46-39.

Senior B. J. Lamb and sophomore Riley Murchison took matters into their own hands and fueled a 17-2 run that put Grapeland back in control 63-41.

The Sandies’ 17-point frenzy included four consecutive treys – one by Lamb and three by Murchison.

Two late Schulenburg tallies made it 63-45 heading into the final period.

The Shorthorns got within 11 with 2:00 left but hopes of a miracle comeback faded with a steal and back-to-back buckets by Lamb.

Schulenburg scored its final point at the line with :55 left and seemed content to let the Sandies run out the clock.

Wiley and Murchison, who drained six treys, each finished with 23 points. Murchison also made his presence known on defense with seven steals. Wiley had six steals and eight rebounds.

Lamb swooshed in three treys and rounded out double figures with 17. Omarian Wiley chipped in seven and Keizion Ashford had four.

Schulenburg senior Brycen Wilson capped his career with a game-high 30 points and senior Kenny King followed with 13.

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Sandies advance to state semifinal

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 MG 5462COURTESY PHOTO | MARSHA COOK Grapeland’s Cadarian Wiley brings fans to their feet with a slam-dunk in the regional championship game against LaPoynor Saturday.

By Larry Lamb

Revenge is always satisfying but a win that moves you a step closer to a state basketball championship is even sweeter.

The No. 3 Grapeland Sandies (28-1) took down No. 4 LaPoynor 75-57 in the regional final Friday at Fairfield.

LaPoynor put the only blemish on the Sandies’ resume back on Dec. 12 when the Flyers notched a 61-56 non-district road win.

Grapeland advances to the state semifinals against Schulenburg Tuesday at Aldine ISD’s Campbell Center. Schulenburg, ranked No. 20 in the final TABC poll, knocked off No. 7 Port Aransas 57-50 in the regional final.

The winner of the Grapeland-Schulenburg game advances to the championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio Saturday at 10 a.m.

No. 2 Clarendon and No. 8 Lipan will face off for the other state tournament berth.

LaPoynor led 12-10 after a quarter but didn’t have an answer for a barrage of seven 3-pointers by Grapeland that fueled a 32-11 run in the second quarter.

By halftime the Sandies were firmly in control 42-23 behind B.J. Lamb’s four treys and a pair of deuces in the second quarter. Riley Murchison drained a pair of treys and Johnny Lamb swooshed in another from 3-point range at the buzzer for a 19-point advantage.

Grapeland’s second quarter flurry also included five points by Keizion Ashford and a basket by Omarian Wiley.

The Flyers came out energized in the third quarter and reeled off an 11-2 run to whittle the lead down to 44-34.

Momentum shifted back to the Sandies when Ashford buried a trey and an electrifying two-handed dunk by Cadarian Wiley pushed their lead to 49-34 with 3:00 left in the third.

After Murchison scored on a put-back and Ashford converted a steal to go up by 18, LaPoynor drilled a trey with 40 seconds left in the quarter.

B.J. Lamb took the ball the length of the court in the waning seconds and laid it in at the buzzer for a 57-40 lead.

LaPoynor refused to go away quietly and opened the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run to get within nine.

After Cadarian Wiley slammed home his second dunk of the night and Mike Dancer scored a bucket, the Flyers rattled off nine unanswered points to make it 61-52 with 5:20 left.

Grapeland put the game away with a 14-0 run that included three baskets by Cadarian Wiley and one by Omarian Wiley, along with perfect 4-of-4 free throw shooting by B.J. Lamb and two by Murchison.

B.J. Lamb paced the Sandies with 24 points followed by Cadarian Wiley with 16, Murchison with 12 and Ashford with 10. Omarian Wiley had six points, Dancer four and Johnny Lamb three.

Ashford led the Sandies with seven steals and five assists.

Garrett Nuckolls, who was scoreless in the first half, led LaPoynor with 14 and Cooper Gracey had 12.

LaPoynor was declared a Class 1A State Co-Champion last year after winning its state semifinal game before the UIL suspended the tournament due to COVID-19 concerns. LaPoynor was elevated to class 2A when the UIL announced its 2020-2022 realignment and reclassification.

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Grapeland reaches Elite 8

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 MG 5027MARSHA COOK PHOTO Grapeland’s Cadarian Wiley shoots over Gary defender Landon Woodfin during a regional semifinals matchup Tuesday night in Lufkin.

By Larry Lamb

After toppling No. 1 Martin’s Mill, the Grapeland Sandies added another notch on their belt by taking down No. 9 Gary 48-46 in the regional semifinals Tuesday in Lufkin.

Grapeland’s win sets up a showdown between the No. 3 Sandies (27-1) and No. 4 LaPoynor (26-5) in the regional final Friday night at Fairfield High School.

LaPoynor, which edged Big Sandy 53-50 in the regional semifinals, handed the Sandies their only loss, 61-56, back on Dec.12.

The winner of the Grapeland-LaPoynor matchup advances to the state semifinal round March 8-9 with a ticket to the Class 2A State Championship in San Antonio on Saturday, March 13 up for grabs.

Grapeland led by six three times in the final five minutes but could not put Gary away.

The Sandies had a six-point lead with 1:50 left after Cadarian Wiley hit his third straight bucket.

Gary answered with a deep trey and then hit one of two free throws to make it 47-45 with 46.8 seconds left.

Grapeland’s B.J. Lamb went to the line for a one-and-one situation with 10.9 seconds left. He sank the front end but the second would not fall, holding the Sandies’ lead at 48-45.

Trailing by three, Gary inbounded the ball and a foul on Cadarian Wiley sent the Bobcats to the line for two shots with 1.8 seconds left.

Needing a miracle, the Bobcats’ only hope was to make the first free throw, intentionally miss the second, get the rebound and score.

Landon Woodfin’s first attempt was good to make it 48-46. His second shot hit the rim and the Sandies collected the rebound as the buzzer sounded, setting off Grapeland’s victory celebration.

Playing their preferred brand of run-and-gun style of basketball, the Sandies raced out to a 6-0 lead.

After Gary slowed the tempo, the Bobcats were able to match Grapeland’s six points the rest of the first quarter but still trailed 12-6.

Gary was within a point with 4:45 left in the second when the Sandies pulled away 21-15 on three unanswered buckets.

The Bobcats drained a trey in the closing seconds of the half, capping a 10-2 run that put them on top 25-23 at the break.

Seizing momentum in the third quarter, the Sandies went on a 10-2 run to take a 33-27 lead at the 4:00 mark.

Gary scored back-to-back buckets to make it a two-point game with :25 left. In the closing seconds Mike Dancer heaved an errant trey but a rebound and put-back by Keizion Ashford at the buzzer pushed the Sandies’ lead to 35-31.

Lamb went to the bench with four fouls at the 1:08 mark in the third and returned early in the fourth after Gary nailed a pair of free throws to get within two.

Held to their lowest offensive output this season, the Sandies were led by Cadarian Wiley’s 18 points. Wiley scored eight of Grapeland’s 11 points in the second quarter and made three consecutive baskets in the fourth.

Lamb, who scored his team’s only three-pointer of the night, recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds

Keizion Ashford scored nine, Mike Dancer and Omarian Wiley chipped in two apiece, and Riley Murchison had one.

Gary’s Ryan Ecker led a trio of double-digit scorers with 15. Landon Woodfin had 13 and Dakota Beckham finished with 11.

Grapeland made 5 of 10 free throws and Gary hit 10 of 13.

The Sandies came into the game riding momentum from an 81-75 upset of top-ranked Martin’s Mill Saturday afternoon in Frankston.

The match-up featuring two of the state’s premier class 2A teams lived up to all the pre-game hype.

Grapeland led by three after a quarter and outscored the Mustangs 26-18 in the second to open up an 11-point halftime lead.

After Lamb hit two straight buckets to put the Sandies up 41-30, Mustang Carter Jones drilled a trey to make it an eight-point game with :10 left in the half.

Lamb had an answer, however, when he heaved a 3-point buzzer-beater from half court to stretch the Sandies’ lead back to 44-33 at the break.

Martin’s Mill came out sizzling in the third, hitting three treys in an 11-2 run to cut the lead to two, 46-44.

A 9-2 run put Grapeland up 55-46 but the Mustangs tied it 61-61 on a deep trey in the waning seconds of the third.

The game was tied at 67 early in the fourth when a put-back by Murchison ignited a 6-0 run that put the Sandies up 73-67.

After their lead was cut to two, 77-75, the Sandies hit four clutch free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

Lamb, a Trinity Valley Community College football signee, led the Sandies with a triple-double of 22 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Wiley booked 22 points and nine rebounds while Ashford rounded out double figures with 16 and led with five steals.

 

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Crockett knocks off unbeaten Malakoff

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IMG 1146LARRY LAMB | HCC Crockett senior Ty White glides to the basket during the Bulldogs’ 60-57 area round victory over Malakoff.

By Larry Lamb

Malakoff came into the area round unbeaten and ranked No. 9 in the state but the Crockett Bulldogs weren’t intimidated.

Coach Jordan Caldwell’s squad toppled the Tigers 60-57 Thursday night in Palestine and advanced to the third round for a clash with No. 14 Lorena at noon Saturday in College Station.

Closing out the first quarter with an 8-0 run, the Bulldogs took a 15-5 lead.

Malakoff got within seven in the second quarter but trailed 27-16 at halftime.

The Tigers started the third quarter by rattling off six unanswered points to make it a five-point game. Crockett answered with its own 6-0 spurt to push the lead back to 11, however, Malakoff got within six on two other occasions.

Falling behind 41-33 with 2:36 left, the Tigers staged an 8-1 run to make it a one-point game with :42 left.

Crockett scored with :25 left in the third to go up 44-41.

The Bulldogs pulled away in the fourth with an 11-2 run that stretched their lead to 55-43 with 3:44 left.

Senior Ty White splashed in a three-pointer and a deuce while senior Chris Purvis canned a bucket for a nine-point lead with 4:17 left.

The Tigers called a timeout and then heaved up a three-pointer that rolled around the rim several times before falling out.

After Purvis grabbed the rebound, White was fouled with 3:44 left and went to the line for two technical shots and two free throws. He nailed three of four, putting Crockett up by 12.

Baskets by Tayshawn Simon and D.J. Walker kept the Bulldogs in front by 11 with 1:20 left, but Malakoff finished strong with a 9-1 run that included a pair of buckets and five-of-six free throw shooting to close the gap to three with 11.4 seconds left.

The Bulldogs, who only made one of seven at the line down the stretch, missed an opportunity for two insurance free throws with 3.6 seconds left.

But their three-point lead was enough to punch their ticket to the third round.

White, seven of 11 at the line, led the scoring with 16 points. Walker tossed in 11 and Jadyn Collins rounded out double figures with 10.

Courtney Byrd finished with nine, all in the first half. Purvis had six and Keshun Easterling had four while Simon and Ja’Lyne Carruthers chipped in two apiece.

The Bulldogs made 13 of 27 free throws for 48 percent and Malakoff hit 17 of 32 for 53 percent.

Nathan Jones led Malakoff with 16 and Jay Mosley had 14. Klayton Copeland, nine of 13 at the line, followed with 13. Karter Fuller, who fouled out with 3:41 left, scored seven.

“We knew 24 (Copeland) and 4 (Fuller) were their best players. I’ll take losing but I’m not going to let just one or two players beat me. I know both are a heck of a player but I’ve got 13 guys on my team,” said coach Caldwell. “We mainly focused on 24 defensively. They had several people in foul trouble early and that helped us a lot.”

“We came out slow in the second half and Malakoff went on that run. We had some guys that were making mistakes and getting down on themselves. I told the guys at this point it’s win or go home, so they rallied together and we got the W as a team. That’s what matters,” added Caldwell.

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Crockett nips Rogers in bi-district

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IMG 1055LARRY LAMB | HCC Crockett sophomore Jadyn Collins (2) celebrates with teammate Courtney Byrd after a go-ahead bucket by Collins with six seconds left. The Bulldogs won the bi-district game 49-47.

By Larry Lamb

The Crockett Bulldogs dug themselves an early 12-0 hole, climbed all the way out and squeezed past Rogers 49-47 in bi-district basketball action Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Bryan.

With the game tied at 47-all, sophomore Jadyn Collins converted an offensive rebound and putback with :06 left to give Crockett a two-point cushion.

A deflection by Collins on a last-second trey by Rogers sealed the victory.

“Rogers is a tough team. They played hard all the way down the stretch. I was telling my guys that we don’t need a repeat of the Franklin game,” coach Jordan Caldwell said in reference to a buzzer shot that lifted district champion Franklin to a 52-51 victory over the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs trailed 14-4 after a quarter but dominated the second 16-5 to slip in front 20-19 at intermission.

Caldwell’s crew opened up a five-point lead late in the third only to see Rogers drain a three-pointer in the waning seconds to make it 34-32 heading into the final period.

Early in the fourth Rogers wrestled its way in front 35-34 on a three-point play but Crockett answered with its own to regain the lead with 6:05 left.

The rest of the game was a back-and-forth battle. Crockett never trailed, but Rogers tied the score four times.

Crockett took its biggest lead of 45-40 on a putback by “big man” Chris Purvis and a three-point play by Collins at the 3:34 mark.

Rogers hit a trey on its next possession and tied it at 45-all with 2:18 left.

After a travelling call on Crockett gave Rogers possession, the Eagles put up an errant shot. Ja’Lyne Carruthers grabbed the rebound, took it down the floor and sank a shot off the glass to put the Dogs up 47-43 with 1:20 left.

When Rogers tied it back up at 47-all with 55 seconds left it appeared the battle would go into overtime.

Crockett ran down the clock to :14 before Carruthers drove the lane and put up a shot that rolled around the rim and out.

But luckily, Collins collected the rebound and put the ball in for the game-winning bucket with six seconds left.

This was only Crockett’s third game with its roster back at full-strength after playing half of its district schedule with a skeleton crew.

The rust was evident early as the Dogs, plagued by turnovers and missed shots, didn’t dent the scoreboard until the 1:45 mark in the first quarter. Sophomore Courtney Byrd broke the scoring drought and junior D.J. Walker converted a steal into a layup with 10 seconds left, but the Bulldogs still faced a 14-4 deficit at the end of the quarter.

Rogers seemingly couldn’t miss a shot in the first quarter but then couldn’t hit the mark in the second as the momentum shifted to Crockett.

After being held scoreless in the first half, Collins booked 12 points after halftime to lead the offense.

Walker finished with nine, followed by Carruthers with seven, Ty White and Purvis with six apiece, Byrd with five, and Tayshawn Simon and Keshun Easterling with two each.

Senior Ben Hutka and junior Kade Sebek led Rogers with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

The Bulldogs made seven of 11 free throws while Rogers hit seven of nine. Most of Rogers’ free throws were by senior Ty Sebek, who knocked down six of seven.

Caldwell was encouraged by the resiliency his team exhibited.

“For the most part my guys never gave up but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Caldwell. “We started off horrible and got down 12-0. Then we went on a 20-7 run to take the lead at halftime.

“We started playing our style of basketball and pushing the ball. I told the guys if you make a mistake just be sure you’re moving fast. I think that was the difference late in the game. We kept pushing the ball and then we started getting some rebounds at the bottom too.

“We’ll be okay. We just have to keep playing hard and fighting hard,” said Caldwell, whose team faced undefeated No. 9 Malakoff in the area round Thursday.

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