By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – The Grapeland Sandies opened the 2020-2021 basketball season at home last Friday night as they welcomed the Central Heights Blue Devils to town.
The Sandies were coming off of a Regional Finals appearance last year (their fourth consecutive appearance) and opened the season ranked #4 in Class 2A. The ranking is not a fluke as the Sandies return four starters from last year’s team that went 35-2.
The Blue Devils were also returning several starters from last year’s team that made it to the third round of the playoffs in Class 3A.
With a good-sized opening night crowd, the high-flying Sandies did not disappoint their fans as they raced out to a 20-point lead at halftime and then withstood a furious fourth quarter rally by the Blue Devils to pull out the 84-75 win.
Grapeland had a total of seven players score in the first quarter as they opened up a 24-15 lead after the first eight minutes of play. Keizion Ashford and BJ Lamb both dropped in six while Michael Dancer and Riley Murchison connected from behind the arc. Lekerian (LeLe) Smith, Cadarian Wiley and Omarian Wiley all added two as the Sandies seized an early lead and never looked back.
Trey Smith paced Central Heights with six first quarter points while a trio of Blue Devils – Jackson Flynn, Trey Huddleston and Preston Watson – all hit from three-point land.
The second quarter saw Grapeland extending their range as the Sandies connected on four three-pointers. Ashford led the charge for Grapeland with eight points (including a three), while Lamb knocked down a pair of three-balls. C. Wiley dropped in five, Dancer drained a three and both Murchison along with O. Wiley netted two as the Sandies took a 50-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Huddleston paced the Blue Devils with five, second quarter points while both Flynn and Watson connected from behind the arc. Smith and Carson Lindeman closed out the first half scoring for Central Heights with two apiece.
After the break, Grapeland cooled off considerably but still managed to increase their lead. Ashford added six to his total while Murchison, Cole Goolsby and Johnny Lamb connected from downtown to help the Sandies to a 65-44 lead after three quarters were in the books.
Michael Perry got on the board with four points in the third for Central Heights while five other Blue Devils – Flynn, Huddleston, Lindeman, Smith and Watson – all had two apiece.
With a 21-point lead, the Sandies began to rotate players in and out of the lineup. However, a late surge by Central Heights forced Grapeland to re-insert the starters to fend off the Blue Devils. Lamb led the Sandies’ fourth quarter attack with seven points while C. Wiley netted four. Ashford, Dancer, Murchison and O. Wiley all chipped in two apiece to help Grapeland close out Central Heights by a final score of 84-75.
The Blue Devils’ fourth quarter point production came from Huddleston with nine, Clayton Petty with five and both Perry as well as Watson with four each. Flynn drained a three while Smith, Grant Caldwell and Jackson Glymph all had two.
On the game, Central Heights was paced by Trey Huddleston with 19 points while Trey Smith and Preston Watson both had 12. Jackson Flynn had 11, Michael Perry added eight, Clayton Petty had five and Carson Lindeman had four. Grant Caldwell and Jackson Glymph both chipped in two apiece to close out the Blue Devils’ scoring on the night.
The Sandies were led by Keizion Ashford with 22 points, four assists and seven steals. BJ Lamb knocked down 19 points to go along with six boards, six assists and six steals. Cadarian Wiley and Riley Murchison were both in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively. Michael Dancer netted eight, Omarian Wiley went for six, Cole Goolsby and Johnny Lamb both connected on three-pointers and LeLe Smith chipped in two to round out the Sandies’ point production in the season opener.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.