By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

FAIRFIELD – Several years ago, Arkansas Razorbacks’ Head Coach Nolan Richardson unleashed “40 Minutes of Hell” on the college basketball world. On Monday night, Feb. 13, Grapeland Sandiette Head Coach Anthony DeCello unleashed “32 Minutes of Purgatory” on Cayuga as the Sandiettes defeated the Lady Wildcats by a final score of 67-40 to capture the Bi-District title.

While Richardson’s Razorback squad used their defensive prowess to win the 1994 NCAA National Championship, the Sandiettes still have a ways to go. Every journey, however, begins with a first step and on Monday, Grapeland took that first step
with a dominant defensive performance.

Grapeland came out of the locker room and appeared to be a little tight on the offensive end of the court during the opening minutes of play. Although on the defensive end, the Sandiettes frustrated the Lady Wildcats with their quick hands and defensive positioning.

As a result, Cayuga wound up committing six team fouls in the first eight minutes, after the Sandiettes forced numerous turnovers.

Grapeland jumped out to an 18-12 lead in the first quarter thanks in large part to their ability to push the ball up the court. Hannah Chipman dropped in six points in the opening period, Ragan Bowie drained a 3-pointer while Keke Harris hit a two to go along with one of two from the line. Three other Sandiettes – Reagan Bishop, Tatiyanna Bowie and Kenya Woods – accounted for the remaining six Grapeland first quarter points.

The Cayuga Lady Wildcats were led by both Nicole Lackey and Britney Longmiles with six apiece.

The second quarter was more of the same as Grapeland opened up a double digit lead midway through the period. Chipman added four to her total and T. Bowie dropped in three. Harris converted two of two from the line, DeDe McKnight connected on two of three from the charity stripe and Kenya Woods dropped in a two to push the Sandiette lead to 11 by the end of the first half.

Cayuga got four from Longmiles and two from both Lackey and Jamie Ward to end the half with Grapeland ahead by a score of 31-20.

The third quarter proved to be the dagger in the heart of the Lady Wildcats. Grapeland’s up-tempo game and high intensity defense proved to be too much for Cayuga as they only managed nine points while the Sandiettes dropped in 20.

Longmiles had four for Cayuga, Kelsi Green knocked down a three and Lexi Flowers made two free throws.

The frustration began to show on the part of the Lady Wildcats as they made costly and unnecessary fouls which resulted in Chipman going to the line nine times for Grapeland. She converted six of the nine opportunities to along with a mid-range jumper for a total of eight third quarter points.

The Lady Wildcats also turned the ball over seven times in the span of three minutes which led to 12 points for the Sandiettes. Harris and Woods converted the turnovers into four points apiece while T. Bowie powered in another four to give the Sandiettes a 51-29 lead with eight minutes remaining in the game.

Try as they might, Cayuga did not have the weaponry to mount a comeback. Longmiles dropped in five, Flowers had three, Abi Bryant added two and Lackey made one of two from the line to close out the Lady Wildcats’ point production.

Grapeland slowed the pace down somewhat in the fourth quarter, but still put up 16 to pull away and win the game by a final score of 67-40.

Three Sandiettes- T. Bowie, Chipman and Harris – all had four points in the final frame while R. Bowie and Woods accounted for the other four.

On the game, the Lady Wildcats were led by Britney Longmiles with 19 points. Nicole Lackey added nine, Lexi Flowers had five and Kelsi Green had three. Abi Bryant and Jamie Ward each scored two to round out the Cayuga scoring.

The Sandiettes were led by Hannah Chipman with 22 points. She was joined in the scoring column by Tatiyanna Bowie and KeKe Harris with 13 apiece while Kenya Woods had 10. Ragan Bowie dropped in five and Reagan Bishop chipped in two to account for the Grapeland scoring.

After the game, Coach DeCello commented on his team’s performance.

I thought the kids got better and better as the game went on. It’s hard to get upset with our kids because they play so hard. Even when things weren’t going so well in the first half, they just worked and worked. Then, in the third quarter the pressure started getting to Cayuga and one steal led to another. I thought we were pretty sound defensively,” he said.

When it was mentioned the Sandiettes seemed a little nervous at the start, the coach replied, “I don’t know if this is the first time these kids have been in a game like this or that we had to wait almost an hour on the floor for the pre-game and they weren’t used to it. Usually, we have a 10 minute pre-game and we’re out there, but we were really tight at the start. We weren’t making any shots, but we still held them to 20 points in the first half.”

The win moves the Sandiettes into the Area Round of the UIL Playoffs against the winner of the game between the Hubbard Lady Jaguars and Rosebud-Lott Lady Cougars. As of press time, the score for that game was not available.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.