The Palestine and Grapeland varsity boys basketball game on Tuesday in Palestine started out close in the first quarter, but that closeness ended up being short-lived, as the Sandies took over and won the game 84-65.
Palestine was able to keep the game close in the beginning with the help of Sheldon Watson, who had returned to the team after recovering from a football season injury. Tony Butler also helped the Wildcats try to keep up the pace, scoring 11 points and seven rebounds during the game.
Palestine was without Jarrell Owens, and Grapeland’s William Whitehead and Jacolby Simpson took over the inside, scoring 15 and 23 points respectively.
After the game, Grapeland coach Owen Clifton said he liked the way his team responded in the third quarter after a slow start to the first half.
“It’s Palestine, so I know they all know each other, and they wanted to play hard,” Clifton said. “I felt like we didn’t play great in the first half and we were missing something ... like something wasn’t clicking. But then we had a really good third quarter of putting the ball in the hole and running the fast breaks well, which was good for us.
“The fourth quarter, we got a little lax, and they made it a close game,” the coach added. “Overall, we’ll take the win and we’ll move on. We have a lot of things to fix as we roll into district play.”
The second and third quarters were the turning points for Grapeland as they were able to pull away from the Wildcats.
In the second quarter, Grapeland outscored Palestine 19-9 and in the third quarter, they outscored the Wildcats by way of 26-18.
Palestine wouldn’t go down without a fight, though. The Wildcats clawed their way back into the game with a 25-23 fourth quarter in their favor, which ultimately wasn’t enough to mount a large comeback.
Palestine started off the game in a man-to-man defense, which is what Grapeland’s offense is based on, but moved to a zone defense in the second quarter and held the Sandies to just three points, keeping the lead at just a 13-point margin at halftime.
Once Grapeland’s William Whitehead got going in the second half (he had just four points and two rebounds in the first half), he appeared to be unstoppable by Palestine defenders.
“Most people aren’t going to give him (Whitehead) credit for what he deserves,” Clifton said. “But he’s the reason that we’re firing on all cylinders this year. He’s been here since the beginning, and he’s done a great job. He does everything that our team doesn’t want to do. He cleans up all of our mess and gets the ball in the hole.
“He does great for us,” he added. “I love his hustle and his effort.”
Palestine’s next game is on Friday against Groesbeck at home as it opens district play. For Grapeland, it matches up against Leon on the road in its first district game.