With the district lead on the line, the Grapeland Sandies fended off the Lovelady Lions to win 77-65 before a packed house Friday night in Lovelady.
The No. 17-ranked Sandies sit atop the district standings with a perfect 5-0 record at the end of the first half, while the Lions slipped to second at 4-1. Centerville, Latexo and Slocum are all 2-3.
"Lovelady is always a really tough place to play. So any time you can get a win here, whether it's close or not, you're happy for sure. It was a big win for us," said Sandies Head Coach Cannon Earp.
"This puts us in first place starting the second half of district. We get Lovelady, Centerville and Slocum at home, and go to Latexo and Groveton, but we're sitting where we wanted to be after the first half," added Earp.
Grapeland and Lovelady will meet again Feb. 16 in the final district game
The Sandies fell behind 6-2 early but carried an 18-15 lead into the second period.
Grapeland led by up to eight in the second quarter. After the Lions cut the lead to three, the Sandies closed out the quarter with five unanswered points. Rodney Davis scored off a steal and Parker Wilson hit another shot after a steal by Riley Chipman. Kamari Smith nailed a free throw to give the Sandies a 34-26 halftime lead.
After Grapeland built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter, the Lions answered with four straight buckets to get within five, 42-37, but trailed 53-44 heading into the fourth.
Opening the final frame with a 13-3 run, the Sandies took their biggest lead -- 66-47-- with 5:30 to go.
"We really just stuck with our game plan and kept doing what we were doing. Basketball is a game of runs. After Lovelady made that run in the third quarter, I called time-out and told my guys that it was our turn to make a run. They answered the bell on that and we were able to pull away," said Earp.
Six Sandies scored in double figures.
Riley Chipman, who fouled out with 1:50 left, finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a team-high 7 steals.
Tink McQuirter scored 13 (1 trey), in addition to getting 6 rebounds. Parker Wilson canned 12 points (2 treys), along with a team-high 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Rodney Davis had 11 points (1 trey) and 3 steals. Jason Walker booked 10 points and 7 rebounds. Jaques Faulk finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals.
Earp noted the performance of junior Kamari Smith, who logged 5 rebounds and 1 steal in addition to chipping in 3 points.
"Kamari was huge for us coming off the bench. He hasn't played a ton of minutes and we've been trying to figure out where he fits in. He had to step up tonight and played some huge minutes when some of our other posts were in foul trouble. It was probably his best game of the year just rebounding and defense," Earp said.
Rodney Davis, Tink McQuirter and Jason Walker were in foul trouble with four apiece. "It was kind of touch-and-go there at the end. We ended up losing only Riley, but he played really hard and did a great job defending on Hunter Murray all night," said Earp.
Murray led the Lions with 17 points, hitting 9 of 13 at the free throw line. Kade White finished with 15 points (1 trey) and Courtell McQuirter had 10. Other Lions scoring were Mason Lowery with 8 (1 trey), Petey Little 6 (1 trey), Ty Stubblefield 4, Jacob Jeffus 2 and Alex McKnight 2.