By JUSTIN RAINS
The Palestine boys' basketball team made quick work of the Fairfield junior varsity Thursday to open up the Fairfield Invitational Thursday, as every Wildcat who saw the floor scored in a 69-34 victory.
The Wildcats played the Eagle-JV because its originally scheduled opponent, Navasota, is still in the football playoffs.
But, despite the obvious downgrade in competition, PHS coach Bret Botard was proud of the way his team took care of business.
"What we preached all week long was our energy and effort level, and I was very pleased with that,” Botard said. “I thought our kids played extremely hard, especially on the defensive end.
“We played a good ballgame, regardless of the opponent.”
The game was never really close, and the Wildcats never scored less than 14 points in a quarter, and that came in the fourth.
Meanwhile, the stingy Palestine defense held Fairfield to single-digit scoring in three of the game's four quarters, and led 18-4 after the first quarter alone.
Beyond every Palestine player scoring, every player made at least one field goal in the win.
Junior Ben Luckett led Palestine with 13 points on a perfect shooting night. Luckett was 6-of-6 from the floor and 1-for-1 from the free throw line in the victory.
It was a presence the Wildcats missed earlier in the season when he was recovering from an injury sustained during football.
"Ben’s a difference maker,” Botard said. “He has the capability to be on an all-district team by the time the season is over with. Anytime you’re missing one of those, it’s a big hole.”
Tavaydron Davis had 11 points, hitting seven of his eight free throws.
Gee Clark had nine points and four assists, with his passing highlighting the ball movement that Botard thought his team lacked earlier this season.
"I thought we hit the open man today better than we have at any point in the season,” Botard said. “We shot a high number of lay-ups and that was mainly do to with how we passed the ball.”
Izien Isemede added eight points, three rebounds and three assists, while Tony Butler, Shumauri Scott and Jarrell Owens all had six points.
Scott added a team-high seven rebounds in the win, while Owens had four.
The win moves Palestine on to the winner's side of the tournament, where they will face Cayuga at 10:30 a.m. today in Fairfield's maroon gym.
Mexia 61, GRAPELAND 51
FAIRFIELD — After a strong opening quarter, the Grapeland boys' basketball team seemed to lose its rhythm, as did the Mexia Blackcats.
The difference, however, is that Mexia found its rhythm in the fourth quarter, while Grapeland did not.
The Blackcats outscored the Sandies 17-7 in the final quarter to pull away and earn a 61-51 win to open up the Fairfield Invitational.
Mexia goes on to face Jacksonville at 9 a.m. today in Fairfield's gold gym, while Grapeland will face Woden at noon in the south gym.
Grapeland landed late in the third quarter, 41-38, when Patrick Walker picked up his third foul and had to sit for the final three minutes, 20 seconds of the quarter.
In that span, Mexia went on a 6-3 run to tie the game heading into the fourth, and kept that momentum rolling.
Mexia pulled ahead earlier and kept a one-possession advantage for much of the fourth quarter's first few minutes, then started to pull away with about four minutes to go.
With 4:10 left to play, Mexia went to a four-corner spread offense to pull Grapeland out of its zone defense, and that earned Damion Matthews an open lay-up to make it 51-44.
After forcing a Grapeland miss, the Blackcats again spread it around and got an open three-pointer for Curk Harris, which he missed, but LaVictory McKnight got the rebound and put it back for a nine-point Mexia lead that all but ended things.
From there, the Sandies never got the game down to a one-possession contest.
Walker finished with 18 points to lead Grapeland along with five assists, but the junior-star scored only five of those points in the second half.
Jacolby Simpson added 12 points and seven rebounds, while Javonte Woods and Jivarro Thompson each had eight.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org