By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

FAIRFIELD – There’s nothing quite like a February Friday night in Fairfield.  At least that’s the story you’ll get from the Grapeland Sandies!

In recent years, the Sandies have semi-adopted the Johnson Activity Center on the campus of Fairfield High School as their home away from home during the basketball playoffs … and for good reason.

While their season has come to an end at the home of the Eagles in years past, when Grapeland dons the maroon and white for a playoff game in Fairfield, they seem to come out on the winning end – more often than not.

Such was the case last Friday when the Sandies took on the Rosebud-Lott Cougars and slammed them by a score of 68-35 for the Area Championship.

While the game was relatively close after the first eight minutes of play, the Sandies used a 29-2 surge over last of the first and all of the second to put the game out of reach and slide into the Regional Quarterfinals.

As the game got underway, the Sandies were on fire from the field. Parker Wilson nailed two 3-pointers as part of his eight in the quarter. Riley Chipman also hit a 3-pointer to go along with two free throws while Kamari Smith added a basket to bring the score to 15-8, in favor of Grapeland.

Jaquorian Johnson and Danny Williams both scored three for Rosebud-Lott while Jaylon McKinnley chipped in the other two first quarter points for the Cougars.

The eight first quarter points were six more than the Sandies would allow in the second period as Grapeland held the Cougars to a two-point basket by Jeremy Truesdale – and that was it.

Meanwhile, the Sandies stayed red-hot from the field as they poured in 27 points in the second to take a commanding 42-10 halftime lead.

A slam by Rodney Davis at the 7:32 mark of the second got the crowd on its feet and ignited both the Sandie offense and defense. As previously mentioned, the Grapeland defense limited the Cougars to a single basket in the period while the Grapeland offense only missed two shots the entire quarter.

Chipman dropped in nine points for Grapeland while Tink McQuirter got going in the second period with seven. Wilson hit his third three of the half and was joined by Case Boyd and Tyrin Wiley with three each.

After the break, the Grapeland defense continued to hold the Rosebud-Lott offense at bay. The Cougars managed to drop in nine during the third quarter on five from Truesdale, three from Johnson and one from McKinnley.

Grapeland continued to outpace their opponents on the offensive end of the court as the team dropped in 14 to extend its lead to 56-19 after here periods of play.

Tink McQuirter had four in the third while a quintet of Sandies – Josh “Bear” Ackley, Chipman, Rick Frauenberger, Smith and Wilson – all had two.

The Cougars were finally able to put up a double digit score in the fourth quarter as they netted 16 points. McKinnley and Truesdale both went for five while Johnson had four and Josh Jackson had two.

It was way too little and way too late as the Sandies went into a slowed down pace to milk the clock. The Sandies still managed to put up 12 on six from Wilson and three apiece from McQuirter and Wiley to close out the game and give Grapeland the win by a score of 68-35. .

For the game, the Cougars were led in scoring by Jeremy Truesdale with 12 points and Jaqourian Johnson with 10. Jaylon McKinnley netted eight, Danny Williams had three and Josh Jackson chipped in two to close out the Rosebud-Lott point production.

The Sandies were led by Parker Wilson with 19 points and Riley Chipman with 16. Tink McQuirter went for 14 and Tyrin Wiley had six. Kamari Smith powered his way to four points and Case Boyd dropped in a shot from behind the arc for three while Josh “Bear” Ackley, Rodney Davis and Rick Frauenberger all had two.

After the game, Grapeland Head Coach Cannon Earp commented on his team’s performance. “This is definitely an accomplishment in winning Area and I’m certainly proud of our guys for that,” he said.

As the post-game chat continued, the coach was also asked what it was about playing in Fairfield that seemed to favor the Sandies.

“I don’t know. The last time we were here we were playing Fairfield and it didn’t go so well, but we’ve had some good runs here. The kids love the gym here and sometimes it’s a mental thing, which is fine with me,” Earp said.

“That second quarter was pretty special. I wish we could play here every game. The second quarter was unbelievable,” he said.  “They made a three just before the end of the first quarter to make it 13-8, we called a timeout and then we went on a 29-2 run to close out the half. Like I’ve said before, anytime we shoot the ball like that we’re going to be tough to beat.”

The Sandies took on the La Poyner Flyers in the Regional Quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 28 but as of press time, the score was unavailable.

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