By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – Since the 2009-2010 season, the Grapeland Sandies basketball program has put together a string of seven straight district championships, seven regional quarterfinal appearances, five regional semifinal appearances, two regional final appearances and one state semifinal appearance. Not too shabby.
While most basketball programs would be satisfied to have that record on their resume, the Sandies appeared to be anything but satisfied as they opened the 2016 -2017 season with back-to-back wins over two Class 3A schools.
Even though the Sandies lost two starters and key minutes coming off the bench from the 2015-2016 team, the 2016-2017 Sandies starting five of Riley Chipman, Rodney Davis, Tink McQuirter, Kamari Smith and Parker Wilson entered the season ranked at number 10 in Class 2A.
The starters are joined by junior Case Boyd and sophomores Josh “Bear” Ackley, Rick Frauenberger and Tyrin Wiley, who are all expected to play major roles throughout the season.
Grapeland opened the 2016-2017 campaign on the road against the Frankston Indians on Friday, Nov. 18. And just over a week removed from the end of football season, a little rust was to be expected.
While the rust may have been noticeable to Grapeland Head Coach Cannon Earp, the Indians certainly didn’t appear to notice any as the Sandies walked into Frankston and left with a convincing 69-30 win.
The Sandies defense held the Indians offense to single digits in the first half as Grapeland led 38-9 at the break. Even though the defensive pressure eased up somewhat after halftime, Grapeland still managed to pad its lead and allowed Coach Earp to give the younger players some valuable game time experience.
Grapeland was led in scoring by Tink McQuirter with 19 and Parker Wilson with 18 points. Kamari Smith had a solid, all-around game as he dropped in 11 points and pulled down eight boards (6 O, 2 D). Wilson also had five assists while Tyrin Wiley dished out four dimes of his own.
As a team, the Sandies shot 43.2 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. Of note, Grapeland had 12 assists, 13 steals and only four turnovers on the game.
On Monday, Nov. 21, the Sandies traveled to Garrison for a game against the Garrison Bulldogs. In their second game of the year, the rust that wasn’t there in game one showed up. Grapeland only shot 41 percent from the field and 21 percent from three point land. Of concern, Grapeland converted less than 50 percent from the charity stripe (10 of 21).
Even with the less than stellar stats, the Sandies still managed to hammer the Bulldogs on their home court by 17 as they won by a final score of 54-37.
McQuirter and Wilson both scored 13, Chipman added seven, Davis and Frauenberger each dropped in six, Smith had five and Wiley chipped in four. In addition, Frauenberger made a strong showing on the boards as he pulled down 10 rebounds (5 O, 5 D) on the game.
The Sandies also showed the quick hands and defensive prowess seen last year as they had 19 steals, 19 deflections and five blocked shots.
Grapeland was originally scheduled at home against the Normangee Panthers on Tuesday, Nov. 29, but a scheduling conflict in Normangee forced Grapeland to find another game against a different group of Panthers in Mabank. Tip-off was scheduled for 6:15 p.m., but as of press time the score was unavailable.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.