Sandies Fall in Regional Finals, 54-40

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter  

JEWETT – It was almost a repeat of Friday night’s game against Tenaha. Almost. On Friday, the Grapeland Sandies found themselves down by eight before they made a shot. Grapeland overcame that slow start to win their Regional Semifinal against the Tenaha Tigers by a final of 55-53.

The win over Tenaha moved the Sandies into the Regional Finals against the Shelbyville Dragons on Saturday afternoon. Once again, the Sandies started off ice-cold from the field. This time, however, the Sandies were never able to find their rhythm until it was too late and fell to the Dragons by a final score of 54-40.

As the game got underway, Grapeland had trouble not only with their shooting, but with turnovers as well. This allowed Shelbyville to open the first quarter on a 13-0 run. It wasn’t until Tyrin Wiley hit a floater in the lane at the three minute mark that the Sandies broke into the scoring column.

Unfortunately, Wiley’s basket was the only first quarter score for Grapeland. The Dragons, meanwhile, added four points after the Sandies’ lone first quarter basket and led 17-2 at the horn.

Shelbyville was paced by Cole Ferguson with 10 first quarter points while Jordan Boykins added five and Jakovian Buckley had two.

The second quarter was more of the same as the Dragons opened the period on a 7-0 run to push their lead out to 24-2.

Try as they might, the Sandies shots were simply not falling and in the second quarter, Grapeland only added four to their first quarter total on a mid-range jumper from BJ Howard and a pair of free throws from Javion Joseph.

The Dragons continued to thwart the Sandies at every turn and opened up a 25-point lead by the half. Buckley led the way for Shelbyville with six points in the second quarter while Kolby Parker hit a three. Boykins, along with Kyle Tindol, dropped in two and Ferguson closed out the period with a free throw to make the score 31-6 at the break.

Following the intermission, Grapeland began to show signs of life, both offensively and defensively. The Sandies finally broke into double digits in the third quarter with 15 points. Keizion Ashford had five, Howard dropped in four and both Wiley, along with Rick Frauenberger, hit from behind the arc.

Ferguson scored four the Dragons, Tindol hit a three as both Buckley and Ryan Bailey had two, which brought the score to 42-21 after three quarters.

As the final quarter started, Grapeland began to play like they were capable of playing and cut the lead to 11 with 3:50 remaining in the game. The Sandies had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to single digits but a missed three-pointer stalled the rally with the score 44-33.

That was as close as the Sandies would get as Shelbyville hung to win by a final score of 54-40. The Sandies were led in the fourth quarter by Ashford with eight and Josh Ackley with three. Four other Sandies – Frauenberger, Howard, Joseph and Wiley – all had two to round out the Grapeland scoring.

Foe the game, Grapeland was led in scoring by Keizion Ashford with 13 points. BJ Howard added eight, Tyrin Wiley had seven and Rick Frauenberger had five. Javion Joseph added four and Josh Ackley had three to close out the Sandies’ point production.

The Dragons were led by Cole Ferguson with 20 points and Jakovian Buckley with 11. Both Jordan Boykins and Kyle Tindol went for seven, Ryan Bailey had four. Kolby Parker added three and Kurtrick Allen chipped in two.

While the season certainly didn’t end the way he had hoped, Grapeland Head Coach Cannon Earp was gracious enough to discuss the team’s loss.

Asked about the first quarter, the coach said, “I called a timeout when we were down 9-0 and reminded them we were down 8-0 last night. It was the same sort of start. But, instead of coming out of the timeout and chipping away at the lead, it just got worse.”

“It was a perfect storm of things,” Earp said. “Defensive mishaps and they were hitting shots. BJ would get by (his defender) and they would either step up to take a charge or block his shot. Like I said, it was a perfect storm of things that went against us in the first half.”

The coach explained at halftime he told his team “… we’re down by 25. You can come out and quit – and no one will ever remember the game. Shelbyville will go on. Or, you can mount an epic comeback people will never forget.”

After that, Earp said he started to see a flicker of life in his team.

“We had a chance to cut it to single digits but we had a three rim out and they beat us deep one time for an ‘and one.’ That was kind of the nail in the coffin,” he said.

“I was so proud of this team in the second half,” Earp said. “Down 31-6 at the half, it would have been so easy to say we’ll just come back next year. They didn’t do that. They fought hard, had foul trouble we had to navigate through, but we lost to a really good team. They’re 32-4 for a reason and I wish them the best of luck in San Antonio.”

Before Earp left to go join his team, it was pointed out – even with a 20-point lead – Shelbyville looked a tad bit rattled.

With a smile, he added, “We made ‘em pretty nervous for a while.”

From all of us at The Messenger, we would like to extend our congratulations to the Sandies for a remarkable and entertaining season.

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