By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – It was senior night in Grapeland on Friday, Feb. 10 and the five starters for the Grapeland Sandies were honored in a pre-game ceremony. Seniors Riley Chipman, Rodney Davis, Tink McQuirter, Kamari Smith and Parker Wilson were presented with pictures and small tokens of appreciation for their contributions to the Sandie Basketball program before tipping off their final home game against the Big Sandy Wildcats.
And what a way for the seniors to go out! Big Sandy had demolished
Grapeland during last year’s Regional Tournament. While the Sandies had gained a small measure of revenge against the Wildcats earlier this season with a 65-49 win, this one was a little more special.
It was the last time the Sandie seniors would ever play a game in the Grapeland gym and if they won, it would clinch their ninth consecutive district title. With their emotions running high and a championship on the line, the Sandies took care of business and defeated the Wildcats by a final score of 76-68.
After the pre-game festivities, the two teams battled back and forth through the first eight minutes of play, with Grapeland eeking out a 17-15 lead after one.
Big Sandy was led by Jackson Mayer and Aaron Thompson with four points apiece while Isaiah Thompson dropped in a three pointer to go along with twos from Britton Dickens and Samuel Richard.
Grapeland was led by Tink McQuirter with seven first quarter points while Rodney Davis and Parker Wilson both dropped in three. Riley Chipman and Rick Frauenberger divide the other four points equally to account for the Sandies’ scoring output.
In the second quarter, the Grapeland “D” showed up and held Big Sandy to 10 points. Mayer netted five while Thompson and Cole Foster both added two. Dickens made one of two from the line to close out the Wildcats’ first half scoring.
Not only did the defense show up for the Sandies, the offense did as well. Chipman caught fire in the second and dropped in two 3-pointers to go along with a driving layup for eight points. McQuirter continued to add to his total as he also went for eight. Wilson hit his second 3-pointer of the half and Kamari Smith got on the board with a two as Grapeland opened up a 13 point lead at the break.
When the two teams returned to the court after halftime, the Wildcats showed a renewed sense of urgency as they seemed to sense the district title slipping away. Richard went crazy in the third and poured in 12 points. Mayer followed closely with eight and Thompson knocked down five to trim the Grapeland lead to nine.
The Sandies maintained their poise, however, and answered with 22 points of their own. Chipman continued to light up the Wildcats from the outside as he nailed a trio of 3-pointers, along with a pair of free throws for 11 points. McQuirter threw in four from outside, Wilson added his third 3-pointer of the game as both Davis and Tyrin Wiley chipped in two to help make the score 60-51, with eight minutes remaining in the game.
With one quarter left between the Sandies and their ninth straight district title, Grapeland certainly made it interesting. The Sandies allowed the Wildcats to claw back to within five points on two separate occasions before getting a huge put back from Frauenberger and a three point dagger from Wilson.
Thompson scored seven for Big Sandy before he fouled out with three minutes left in the game. Mayer dropped in two threes and Samuel added four but it wasn’t enough as the Sandies held on for the 76-68 win.
Frauenberger led the way for Grapeland in the final period with six while McQuirter and Wilson both dropped in five.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by Jackson Mayer with 24 points while both Samuel Richard and Aaron Thompson had 18. Britton Dickson and Isaiah Thompson each went for three as Cole Foster chipped in two to round out the Big Sandy point production.
The Sandies were led by Tink McQuirter with 24 points and Riley Chipman with 21. Parker Wilson netted 14, Rick Frauenberger powered in eight, Rodney Davis added five and both Kamari Smith as well as Tyrin Wiley had two as the Sandies clinched the district championship.
Coach Cannon Earp commented on his team’s championship performance after the game.
“We knew they weren’t going to just roll over for us even when we got up by 19. Our kids have done that this year, however. I don’t know if they start to lose focus, but we’ve let people get back in the game after we get back leads,” he said.
Asked about Chipman’s performance with five threes on the night, the coach said it was huge for the team.
“He had five threes. We knew they were going to do all they could to stop Parker and Tink. But when Riley is shooting the ball like that and Rick’s getting the put backs inside, it’s huge for us. Parker and Tink are going to do what they do, but when we get someone else going … sometimes it’s Rodney, sometimes it’s Riley. He also played well defensively.”
As to who the Sandies might play in the Bi -District round of the playoffs, Earp said it was still too early to be certain, but speculated it would be either the Frost Polar Bears or the Cross Roads Bobcats.
The staff at The Messenger would like to congratulate the Grapeland Sandies on their District 20-2A championship and wish you the best of luck in the playoffs!
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.