Seniors punctuate unbeaten district champions’ victory

Mineola seniors in action, from left, Wylie Franks, De’Vontae Stephens, Kaleb Griffin, Colt Marlow and Kelby Bruner.
Mineola seniors in action, from left, Wylie Franks, De’Vontae Stephens, Kaleb Griffin, Colt Marlow and Kelby Bruner.
(Monitor photos by John Arbter)

Mineola senior basketball players put on an exhibition last Tuesday in the final district game of the year. Kelby Bruner, Wiley Franks, Kaleb Griffin, Colt Marlow and De’Vontae Stephens started the game and propelled the Jackets to an undefeated district record and a district championship, as Mineola bested Edgewood 66-48. 

The five senior starters played the first 4.5 minutes together and built a 12-2 advantage. Bruner initiated scoring with an offensive rebound put-back. Stephens nailed a 3-pointer after a very nice sequence of ball movement against the Edgewood zone. Griffin executed a smooth move into the lane and scored with a short jumper. Marlow hit a beautiful turnaround jumper from the free throw circle, and Bruner added another score.

Along with the offensive punch, the starting five played some hard man-to-man defense which rocked the Bulldogs back on their heels. Appropriately, the starting five received a huge cheer when the regular substitution routine commenced midway through the period.  

After absorbing that motivated start, the visiting Bulldogs fought back twice to threaten for the lead. Midway through the second period, Edgewood had closed to 19-16.  In the third quarter the visitors closed again within three points, 35-32.  

Each time, the Yellowjackets were able to create a surge of scoring and timely defense which ended the threat. In the second quarter it was a scoring sequence of T.J. Moreland, Bruner and Jonah Fischer which reestablished a 10-point lead. In the third quarter it was Fischer, Franks and Bruner. 

Throughout the game, the aggressive man-to-man defense, and press, frustrated Edgewood. Only in the last minute of play did Mineola shift to a zone. The Bulldogs had to work so hard for their shots against the Yellowjackets’ man-to-man that they had little energy left with which to score or defend.

The two most memorable moments of the game involved senior Yellowjackets. In a momentum-changing play early in the third quarter, Moreland found Dawson Pendergrass with a pinpoint pass. Pendergrass then shuttled a quick inside assist to Franks on the opposite side of the goal for a score.  

Late in the game, Griffin challenged and stripped a guard at midcourt, drove the court and put in a strong basket. He was fouled hard on the play but fought through the contact. For good measure, he hit the free throw. 

Coach Steadman’s team has progressed game-to-game throughout the season. Their discipline, teamwork and fundamentals have recorded a historic undefeated district scorecard. With the team in full stride, there is no knowing just what the playoffs may bring.