Grapeland Blisters Italy, 67-30
By Will Johnson
FAIRFIELD – If this is February, this must be Fairfield. The Grapeland Sandies walked into the Johnson Activity Center (JAC) on Monday night to take on the Italy Gladiators in a Bi-District clash.
For the Sandies and Sandiettes, the JAC has become Grapeland’s home away from home. Since 2015, this was the 20th game played by Grapeland in Fairfield, with most of them have turning out in a favorable manner.
Monday, Feb. 19 was no exception as the Sandies hammered the Gladiators to the point where Italy player Kendrick Norwood became so frustrated with the Grapeland defense, he was kicked out of the contest in the second quarter.
Grapeland opened the game on fire, both offensively and defensively. The Sandies hung 19 points on the Gladiators in the first quarter while they limited Italy to five on a three from Kort Holley and two from Gary Escamilla.
BJ Howard led the Sandies with eight first quarter points. He was joined in the scoring ranks by Rick Frauenberger with four along with three other Sandies – Keizion Ashford, Deco Bryant and Tyrin Wiley – with two each. Javion Joseph added a free throw to end the first quarter with Grapeland up by a score of 19-5.
The defensive pressure continued in the second period as the Sandies held the Gladiators to four points in the period – on twos from Escamilla and Holley – and also held them to single digits in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Sandies began to disassemble the Gladiator defense by forcing turnovers from
the Italy offense.
Rick Frauenberger paced Grapeland with eight second quarter points. Joseph dropped in six as both Bryant and Wiley knocked down shots from a different area code. Josh Ackley added two while Ashford converted one of two from the line to make the halftime score 42-9, in favor of Grapeland.
After the break, the Gladiators finally broke the game’s double digit barrier on four points from Daylan Slade and two from Holley.
The Sandies, however, took it in stride as they increased their lead to 44. Joseph led the third quarter Grapeland
scoring with seven while Ashford had four. Both Bryant along with Wiley had three apiece which made the score 59-15 after three periods of play.
With a 44-point lead, Grapeland Head Coach Cannon Earp began to give some of his reserve players some quality playing time in the fourth quarter. Dameion Smith netted four, Case Boyd had two and Keriaun Davis also chipped in two as the Sandies coasted to a 67-30 win.
For the game, the Gladiators were led in scoring by Kort Holley with a game high 19 points. Gary Escamilla had six and Daylan Slade added five to round out the Italy point production.
While only three Gladiators scored, the Sandies put 10 players in the scoring column. Grapeland was led by Javion Joseph with 14 points and Rick Frauenberger with 12. A trio of Sandies – Deco Bryant, BJ Howard and Tyrin Wiley – all had eight, while Keizion Ashford dropped in seven.
Other Grapeland players in the scoring column included Dameion Smith with four, as Josh Ackley, Case Boyd and Keriaun Davis all had two.
Following the game, Coach Earp commented on his team’s performance.
“It’s always good to get a playoff win. I loved the way we played in the first half – coming out with such intensity. You worry sometimes in the playoffs when you have a week off. We haven’t had five days off since Christmas,” he said.
“The flip side of that,” Earp added, “is that it builds the anticipation a little more and we were ready to play.”
Asked about the team’s defensive play, Earp said that was where the key to the Sandies could be found as they move ahead in the postseason.
“That’s where we‘re going to win games – mixing things up defensively. I thought we did a good job of that in the first half. We kept them on their toes,” he said.
On the interior, Earp said Rick Frauenberger played a key role for the Grapeland defense.
“He’s not the most fleet of foot and he’s not the best jumper but he has really good hands and he anticipates well. He leads the team in blocks with either four or five per game. Rick does a good job of being a rim protector for us,” the coach explained.
On the perimeter, Earp said the guard play was key to the Sandies defense.
“Keizion is really good, Tyrin and BJ – pretty much any of our guards – they all have quick hands. They’re good anticipators. You want them to do that, but every now and then they get into a little foul trouble. Tonight, they were able to do what they do without fouling and created some buckets in transition for us,” Earp said.
The win moves the Sandies into the area round of the playoffs. As to the who, when and where of the next round, as of press time, it had not been determined.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.