By Will Johnson
BRYAN — The Grapeland Sandies knew they would have their hands full when they took to the court on Saturday, March 2 to do battle with the Shelbyville Dragons for the right to represent Region III in the UIL Class 2A State Tournament next week.
The Sandies came into the game ranked #5 while the Dragons were #1 and while the two teams don’t play each other very often, Grapeland vs. Shelbyville has become quite the rivalry. In addition, the Tenaha Tigers always seem to be invited to the party.
This is the third consecutive year the Sandies, Dragons and Tigers have earned their way to the Regional Tournament.
In 2017, the Sandies defeated Shelbyville in the Regional Semis and Tenaha in the Regional Finals to advance to the State Tournament in San Antonio.
Last year, Grapeland beat Tenaha in the Regional Semis but fell to the Dragons in the Finals on a very poor shooting night.
This year, the Sandies seemed poised to take back the Regional Championship after they dispatched of the Tigers on Friday by a final score of 58-46.
Shelbyville had defeated another District 20-2A team in the Regional Semis when they took out the Lovelady Lions by a score of 99-72.
While the Grapeland Sandiettes were preparing to take on the Martin’s Mill Lady Mustangs in the Class 2A Girls Basketball Championship, the Sandies and Dragons tipped off in what was hyped as perhaps the unofficial state championship.
And … the two teams couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the beach. It may have set a record for first quarter futility as the Sandies and Dragons scored a total of four (4) points in the opening period of play.
Typically, the Dragons and Sandies score four points just rolling out of bed. That was not the case on Friday when Shelbyville poured in three points to open the game and Grapeland powered its way to one.
With the scoreboard reading more like a baseball game after the first eight minutes of play, the fans at Bryan High School were asking each other what they had just witnessed. Shots were put up and would go half way in, only to rattle out.
The second quarter wasn’t much better as the Dragons dropped in 13 while Grapeland added five to their total to make the score at halftime, 16-6.
Despite a horrendous shooting performance in the first two quarters, Grapeland was still in the game thanks in large part to the stellar play of the defense.
The Dragons were in the same boat and knew a 10-point lead at halftime would not be enough to hold off a hungry, frustrated group of Sandies.
Following the break, unfortunately, it was more of the same for Grapeland. While the Sandies more than matched their first half point total, it wasn’t nearly enough as Shelbyville put up 17 third quarter points to take a 33-13 lead into the final period of play.
The Sandies finally found their shooting touch in the fourth quarter and poured in 26 points. While the scoring frenzy managed to whittle a few points off of the Dragon’s lead, it wasn’t nearly enough as Shelbyville held off the Sandies by a final score of 55-39 to advance to the state tournament later this week.
The Dragons were led in scoring by Jay Buckley with 16 points and Cole Ferguson with 14. Kurtis Allen had 12, Jordan Boykins added nine and LD Coleman dropped in four.
The Sandies were paced by Cadarian Wiley with 15 points. Rick Frauenberger worked inside for six while Keizion Ashford, Deco Bryant and Tyrin Wiley all had five. Keriaun Davis added three to close out the Grapeland point production.
The Sandies finished their season with a record of 30-7 and made their third consecutive trip to the Regional Finals.
Despite losing several players to graduation this year, Grapeland has a slew of players returning next year and should have some prospects moving up to the varsity level. Don’t be surprised to see the Sandies back in the Regional Finals next year and perhaps even in the State Tournament.
From all of us at The Messenger Sports, congratulations on a great year!
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.