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Grapeland’s Fourth-Quarter Rally Falls Short As Muenster Ousts Sandies in Semifinals

Grapeland’s Patrick Walker pulls down a rebound during the Sandies’ area-round playoff win over Martin’s Mill in Frankston on Feb. 21. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

AUSTIN — Grapeland fought back from a 12-point deficit early in the fourth quarter and had a chance to tie inside of 10 seconds, but what became a thorn in the Sandies’ all game long reared its head one last time.

Grapeland missed two potential game-tying 3-pointers — its 27th and 28th miss from 3-point range for the game — and Muenster held to defeat the Sandies 65-64 in front 6,341 fans at the Frank Erwin Center in their Class A Division I semifinal Thursday morning.

Muenster (28-2) will face top-ranked Mumford (37-1) — a 59-48 semifinal winner over Smyer — at 8:30 a.m. Saturday for the state title. Grapeland, champions of Region III, finished its season at 33-5.

Grapeland, which entered Thursday’s semifinal averaging 34 percent from 3-point land, was just 7-of-35 (20 percent) against Muenster. Aside from Patrick Walker, who finished with a game-high 37 points, the Sandies were 0-of-15 on 3′s.

“The ball just wouldn’t go in the hole,” said Grapeland coach Owen Clifton. ‘We have a lot of (shooters) and sometimes that gets contagious when you’re missing shots. I was hoping in the second half we’d come out with one of those 30-point quarters like we have so many of this year, but we couldn’t. You have to give credit to Muenster; they did a really good job on the defensive end.”

But despite its poor outside shooting, Grapeland was in the game all the way until the very end. With the Sandies trailing 64-61, Grapeland sophomore Jaques Faulk came away with a steal as a result of his team’s full-court press, got an open look for tie but the ball bounced in and out of the rim. Walker grabbed the offensive rebound, and attempted a 3 of his own, which was off the mark as well.

“We had a look at the end to tie it, our sophomore (Faulk) who hit a big shot to get us here in the first place,” Clifton said. “It was a good luck and the shot we wanted, but it kinda went in and out. That’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Muenster’s 6-7 forward Lyndon Cook, who put up a monstrous performance that included 20 points and 26 rebounds, was fouled after grabbing the rebound and made one of his two foul shots to increase Muenster’s lead to four points with four seconds remaining.

Walker’s last-second heave from beyond the 3-point line was good, leaving Grapeland’s comeback attempt one point short.

“The opportunity that we had to come here and play on a big stage, just the smiles when we walked in this morning made it all worth it,” Clifton said. ‘I’m proud of these boys, heartbroken and disappointed because I really thought we could come down here and win the whole thing. I’m just really proud of the effort they gave in practice and during the season.”

Muenster’s size gave Grapeland fits all game long. The frontcout trio of Cook (6-7), Cole Walterscheid (6-6) and Trevor Cheaney (6-2) helped the Hornets to a 51-30 rebounding advantage.

“It was obvious,” Clifton said of Muenster’s dominance on the glass. “I think we did a pretty job of doing what we wanted to do — keeping their shot selections deep in the block and those types of things. We just didn’t block out, and it hurt us. They got a lot of second-chance, third-chance and even fourth-chance opportunities. And that was a big difference in the ballgame.”

Walterscheid had 18 points and nine rebounds, while Cheaney finished with 14 points and seven boards. Of Muenster’s 51 rebounds, 19 were offensive, and the Hornets held a 54-34 edge in points in the paint.

“That’s been a key for us all year,” said Muenster coach Lynn Cook on his team’s rebounding prowess. “If we can make the other team take contested shots — hopefully from the perimeter — then we do a good job of blocking out. That gives us more possessions, keeps the opponents’ score down and gives us a chance to be successful.”

It was a struggle all morning for Grapeland from the field. Jacolby Simpson, the Sandies’ leading scorer who came in averaging more than 20 points per game, was held to just seven on 3-of-9 shooting (0-for-5 on 3′s).

“They were guarding (Simpson) a the 3-point line and that’s where he gets a lot of his points,” Clifton said. “We wanted to try to get him going because it affects his defense and everything else. Their big 6-6 guy (Walterscheid) came out and defended on him and it’s hard to shoot over the top of that.”

Grapeland trailed 55-43 with 6:34 remaining in the fourth, the Sandies began making their charge, helped along by a tenacious full-court press that forced Muenster into committing a handful of turnovers down the stretch

Walker scored 16 of Grapeland’s 23 fourth-quarter points. His layup with 35 seconds remaining cut Muenster’s lead to 64-61.

“We’re gonna miss him,” Clifton said. “When you have a Patrick Walker you want the ball in his hands. The thing I love about him — he scored 37 and he’s averaging 19 per game — but he doesn’t care. He just wants to win.”

No. 3 Muenster 65, No. 2 Grapeland 64

Boys Class A Division I State Semifinal

At Frank Erwin Center, Austin

Grapeland              19   13     9   23   —   64
Muenster                20   16   13   16   —   65
GRAPELAND (33-5) — Patrick Walker, 37; Demetri Walker, 10; Jacolby Simpson, 7; Jaques Faulk, 4; Dominic DeCello, 2; John McKnight, 2; William Whitehead, 2.
MUENSTER (28-2) — Lyndon Cook, 20; Cole Walterscheid, 18; Trevor Cheaney, 14; Logan Cook, 6; Blake Hoepfner, 5; Chance Herr, 2.
THREE-POINT GOALSGrapeland: Walker (7). Muenster: Hoepfner.

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