By Will Johnson
LOVELADY – The Grapeland Sandies closed out the decade with 10 consecutive district titles, eight trips to the Regional Tournament, five appearances in the Regional Finals and two State Semifinal games where they lost by one point in 2014 and four points in OT to the eventual 2017 State Champion Muenster Hornets. Not a bad decade of basketball.
It doesn’t look like they’ve lost a step as the 20s begin. Grapeland sits at #3 in the latest TABC poll and sport a record of 23-1. The lone loss came at the hands of the Crockett Bulldogs (#2 in Class 3A) on the Bulldogs’ home court by a score of 52-49.
On Friday of last week, Grapeland traveled to Lovelady for a tough, District 20-2A matchup. The Lions are rebuilding this year, although Lovelady has always been a tough place to play.
The Sandies, however, are on a roll and used a 36-point first quarter as a springboard to an 87-69 victory over the Lions.
As the game got underway, the Sandies were on fire from the field as their defensive pressure forced several turnovers which resulted in easy points for Grapeland. No one was hotter than Austin Driskell who torched the Lions for 10 first quarter points.
Keizion Ashford chimed in with eight while Cadarian Wiley worked inside for six. Deco Bryant and Riley Murchison both had five while BJ Lamb dropped in a basket to help give Grapeland a 36-11 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
The Lions’ points came from Kaven Rollo with nine and Shamar Terry with two.
Bryant found his touch from behind the arc in the second quarter as he drained three, three-pointers as part of his 11 points in the period. Driskell continued to stay hot as he added nine points to his total while Lamb had two and Ashford made one of two from the line.
Lovelady’s offense also cranked up the tempo as Jaedin Watts got on the board eight. Rollo dropped in four while both Slade Murray and Morgan Thrasher both had three. Seth Murray closed out the Lovelady scoring with a pair of free throws as the Lions found themselves trailing 59-31 at halftime.
Following the break, the Sandies kept up the pressure as they opened a 77-46 lead by the end of the third quarter. Lamb paced Grapeland with nine points while Driskell had five and Ashford had four.
The Lions were led by Slade Murray with six while Terry netted four. Seth Murray hit a three-pointer and Rollo added two for Lovelady to close out the quarter.
With a 31-point lead, the Sandies went to their bench in the final period of play. Lamb dropped in five and Driskell hit his fourth three of the game before they called it a night. In addition, Murchison and Jonathan Luce both chipped in a free throw to help Grapeland close out the Lions by a final score of 87-69.
The Lions made a fourth quarter run but still came up well short. Thrasher poured in 10 while Watts added seven and Seth Murray had six to close out the Lovelady scoring.
On the game, the Lions were led by Kaven Rollo and Jaedin Watts with 15 apiece. Morgan Thrasher added 13 and Seth Murray had 11. Slade Murray dropped in nine and Shamar Terry closed out the Lovelady point production with six.
Austin Driskell had another strong game for the Sandies as he led all scorers with 27 points. BJ Lamb netted 18 and was joined in double-figures by Deco Bryant with 16 and Keizion Ashford with 13. Both Riley Murchison and Cadarian Wiley knocked down six while Jonathan Luce chipped in one to close out the Grapeland scoring.
The Sandies were back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 21 as they traveled to Slocum to take on the Mustangs in a battle for first place in District 20-2A. As of press time, however, the final score was unavailable.
The Lions were also back in action on Tuesday as they welcomed the Leon Cougars to town. As of press time, however, the final score of that game was also unavailable.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.