By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

 ELKHART – Before the first tip-off of the basketball season, the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) picked the Grapeland Sandiettes to finish third in District 20-2A. Turns out they were wrong.

By the time the final regular season TABC rankings came out on Feb. 13, the Sandiettes were ranked #22 in Class 2A and had posted a record of 29-6.

On Valentine’s Day night, Grapeland hammered the Cayuga Lady Wildcats by a final score of 67-40 to capture the Bi-District Championship and then turned around on Friday, Feb. 17 and held on to defeat the Rosebud-Lott Lady Cougars by a score of 45-43 to capture the Area Championship.

The win over the Lady Cougars gave Grapeland a record of 31-6 and moved the Sandiettes into the Regional Quarterfinals against the #2 ranked Class 2A team in the state, the La Poyner Lady Flyers. The Sandiettes and Lady Flyers had squared off earlier this season, with La Poyner winning by a score of 53-32.

Unfortunately for the Sandiettes, their season came to an end on Tuesday but the game was a lot closer this time as the Sandiettes fell by a final score of 49-39. As a matter of fact, without two highly questionable calls by the officiating crew, the outcome of the game may have been completely different.

Specifically, a charge where an autopsy was almost needed for a Sandiette went without a whistle and a travelling call where a La Poyner player seemed to walk from Starr Hill to the Elkhart Gym didn’t even draw a look from the refs. Those two plays resulted in five points for the Lady Flyers and had they been called, the La Poyner five spot disappears and the Sandiettes have two extra possessions.

Now having said that, the blown calls didn’t cost the Sandiettes the game. The Lady Flyers are a good team and are among the favorites to win it all this year. The Lady Flyers were simply the better team on Tuesday and should be congratulated on their win.

The Sandiettes, however, served notice they will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. Grapeland only graduates one senior this year – Jenna Lawrence – while La Poyner graduates three – Hannah Massey, Tonie McDonald and Casey Partanen.

Lawrence was injured during the season and was unable to play on Tuesday. Massey, McDonald and Partanen combined for 19 points and will be gone next year, so it’s not hard to picture these two teams squaring off in the playoffs once again next season.

As it was, the two sophomores and three freshmen starting for Coach Anthony DeCello’s Grapeland squad more than held their own throughout the game. In a low scoring first quarter, Tatiyana Bowie put in five for Grapeland while her sister Ragan Bowie had two.

The Lady Flyers tandem of Te’Aire Hambrick with nine and Hannah Massey with two netted all 11 points for La Poyner to make the score 11-7 after the first eight minutes of play.

The defensive play from both teams was outstanding in the first half as neither team eclipsed the 20 point mark. Hannah Chipman scored four second quarter points for the Sandiettes while Kenya Woods added two.

The Lady Flyers were only one point better as Partanen had three, while Hambrick and Jas Mitchell both had two to make the score at halftime 18-13, in favor of La Poyner.

After the break, the two teams matched up evenly in the third quarter. Hambrick and Massey both had five for the Lady Flyers while Mitchell joined the mix with three.

The Sandiettes hung tough and kept the game close. Chipman dropped in nine while Woods had three to make the score 31-25 through three quarters of play.

Try as they might, the Sandiettes could not get any closer than three before the Lady Flyers would surge ahead. Grapeland was paced by T. Bowie with seven fourth quarter points while Chipman hit a 3-pointer. R. Bowie and KeKe both chipped in two to close out the Grapeland point production in the game.

As the fourth quarter got underway, the Lady Flyers tried to pull away but the Sandiettes kept reeling them back in to stay within striking distance. Hambrick scored seven, Massey had five, Partanen dropped in four and Mitchell had two to help give La Poyner a 49-39 win.

For the game, La Poyner was led by Te’Aire Hambrick with a game high 23 points. Hannah Massey dropped in 12 as Jas Mitchell and Casey Partanen both scored seven.

The Sandiettes were led by Hannah Chipman with 16 points and Tatiyana Bowie with 12. Kenya Woods added five, Ragan Bowie went for four and KeKe Harris chipped in two to close out the Sandiette point production.

From all of us at The Messenger, we would like to extend our congratulations to the Grapeland Sandiettes for a great season!

Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at