By Will Johnson
FAIRFIELD – The Grapeland Sandies were on the road this past weekend as they competed against top notch competition in the Fairfield Basketball Tournament. While the Sandies made it to the Championship Game, things didn’t turn out quite the way they had hoped as they fell to the Argyle Eagles by a final score of 54-29
Make no mistake – while the final game in Fairfield was not pretty – the Sandies played some pretty awesome basketball prior to and over the weekend. So far this season, Grapeland has a record of 6-1.
Before the Fairfield Tournament, the Class 2A Sandies beat the Class 3A Frankston Indians by a score of 69-30. They followed that up with a win over the Class 3A Garrison Bulldogs by a score of 54-37 and then beat the Class 4A Mabank Panthers by a score of 48-45.
The Sandies entered the Fairfield Tournament with a record of 3-0 and as of Dec. 2, they were ranked #7 in Class 2A. In their first game in Fairfield, Grapeland took on the #21 Class 4A La Vega Pirates and won a tight contest 53-52. In game two on Friday, Grapeland beat the #11 Class 3A Teague Lions by a final of 62-57 and turned around later that evening and defeated the Class 4A Fairfield Eagles on their home court by a score of 64-62.
The win over Fairfield put the Sandies into the Tournament Championship against the #6 Class 4A Argyle Eagles. Unfortunately for the Mighty Sandies, they seemed to run out of gas at the wrong time.
As the game got underway, the Sandies were ice cold from the field and only managed two points against an Argyle starting lineup that had an average height of at least 6’3”. Kamari Smith broke the scoring drought from Grapeland in the opening eight minutes when he made one of two from the line and was joined by Tink McQuirter who also made one of two free throws.
Meanwhile, the Eagles played an inside-out game. Argyle would throw the ball into their 6’8” post, Jon Harding, and when Grapeland would attempt to double up on him, Harding would kick the ball outside to the perimeter where guard Nathan Priddy waited to knock down a three.
Priddy hit three from behind the arc to go along with a two for 11 points in the quarter while Harding scored two from down to give Argyle a 13-2 lead after one.
As the second quarter got underway, McQuirter began to heat up for the Sandies and knocked down two from downtown to go along with two free throws and a two point basket for 10 in the period. His Grapeland teammates, however, remained ice cold. Parker Wilson chipped in two and Rick Frauenberger made one of two from the line to account for all the second quarter points as the Sandies found themselves facing a 28-15 deficit after the first half.
The Eagles continued to bomb away from three point land in the second quarter. Priddy took a break but was replaced by David Davis who scored nine points on a three and three other buckets from the field and Christian Splain who dropped in two three pointers.
The second half didn’t get any easier for Grapeland. Rodney Davis began to get on track as he went for five third quarter points while McQuirter added two more to his total.
The Sandies made a bit of a run to start the second half, but as they crept to within striking distance, Priddy went back to work from the outside and netted two more threes as well as a two for eight in the quarter. Davis joined Priddy in the scoring column with two more buckets from the field to bring the score to 40-22 after three.
Try as they might, Grapeland could not draw any closer than 18 in the final eight minutes of play. Frauenberger scored four, Riley Chipman added two and McQuirter chipped in a free throw to close out the Grapeland scoring.
Argyle continued to shoot from the perimeter as Splain added his third three of the game. Guy Petter and Fischer Rouly both nailed a three, Ben C
ollins made an old fashioned three (a two point basket and a free throw) and Koy Randall added a two to close out the game and give Argyle the 54-29 win.
The Sandies were led in scoring by Tink McQuirter with 14 points. Rodney Davis and Rick Frauenberger both had five, Riley Chipman and Parker Wilson each had two and Kamari Smith added one.
The Eagles were led by Nathan Priddy with 19 and David Davis with 13 points. Christian Splain had nine points while a trio of Eagles – Ben Collins, Guy Petter and Fischer Rouly had three. Jon Harding and Koy Randall both added two for Argyle.
Following the game, Grapeland Coach Cannon Earp discussed his team’s performance. ”We built a whole lot of momentum coming into this game. It was a positive weekend, if we let it be one. That team (Argyle) is going to beat a lot of people by 25 throughout the year. You can’t zone ‘em and you can’t go man against ‘em. I just hope our guys understand there are a whole lot of positives we can take from this weekend,” he said.
“When a team has one player who can a stroke the three, that’s one thing. You can always find ways around that. When they have eight who can do the same thing that makes it a little more difficult. Throw in a kid at 6’8” and it makes for a difficult game. Our kids are competitive. It doesn’t matter who you put out there. They don’t want to get beat like that,” Coach Earp said.
He added, “It was a tough loss but it is only Dec. 3. You want to get better and start building for January and February because that’s when everyone is trying to peak. Hopefully, next time we come back here we can end on a positive note.”
In the last four years, the Grapeland playoff road has led through Fairfield. For three of those years, the Sandies left Fairfield as Area Champions and advanced to the Regional Tournament.
Will Johnson may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.