Atlanta victory sends Jackets to regional tourney

Posted 3/9/23

Mineola Yellowjacket boys basketball team advanced to the regional tourney!

The Jackets put together another stellar effort last Tuesday defeating the Atlanta Rabbits 54-41 at the regional …

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Atlanta victory sends Jackets to regional tourney


Mineola Yellowjacket boys basketball team advanced to the regional tourney!

The Jackets put together another stellar effort last Tuesday defeating the Atlanta Rabbits 54-41 at the regional quarterfinal in Tatum.

There is special satisfaction when defense wins basketball games.

Of course, the team has to score to win the game, but a defensive effort, like the one Mineola produced against Atlanta, is a beautiful thing to watch. 

What makes it special is the knowledge of just what sustained man-to-man basketball requires: intense focus, communication, anticipation and conditioning. Mineola demonstrated those qualities in their first three post-season games. 

After a first quarter which saw Atlanta carry much of the action, the Yellowjackets frustrated a talented Atlanta squad the remainder of the game.

The Rabbits had long possessions in the offensive zone but simply could not shake free of the hounding Mineola defense. 

Mineola won this game by moving their feet, manning- up closely and blocking-out on the boards.

Atlanta had some leapers on their team.

After T.J. Moreland opened the game with a 3-pointer, the Rabbits went on a 7-point run. They did it with hand quickness and excellent shooting under pressure. 

Atlanta also blocked a number of Mineola shots in that opening quarter.  To their credit, the Yellowjackets never stopped challenging the Rabbits inside, and as the game wore on, Atlanta’s inside defense began to tire.

However, in that opening quarter Mineola fell behind 12-6, and with 2:51 left in the quarter, had just been called on a 5-second violation.

It seemed the Jackets were stuck in first gear.

Playoff basketball requires contributions from everyone, and at that critical juncture, Zay Lipscomb stepped up and launched a perfect 3-point shot from well beyond the arc. It jumpstarted the Jackets. 

Dawson Pendergrass scored on the inside, returning the game to a 1-point affair. Atlanta tipped a rebound in just before the buzzer to take a 14-11 lead at the quarter break.

The Rabbits started the second quarter with an insane fall-away jump shot over the top of a blanketing Pendergrass. They added a 3-pointer to take an 8-point lead. 

Then, the game seismically shifted. It started with Mineola going back inside and challenging the Rabbits. Pendergrass hit two free throws after some physical play in the lane.

With the Jackets literally cleaning the defensive boards, Mineola started to score. 

Lipscomb hit another 3-pointer, Pendergrass and Isaiah Gardner each scored inside, and Moreland drilled consecutive 3-pointers – the second one behind a Pendergrass screen on the perimeter. 

The 16-point run created the winning margin for the Jackets. The teams went to the half with Mineola leading 28-21.

A Moreland jumper and a Braydon Alley score put the Jackets up by 11 points early in the third quarter.

There the game hovered with Atlanta closing to 7 points late. 

A beautiful length of the court drive by Lipscomb and two Moreland free throws restored the lead to 11 points after three quarters. 

Atlanta was not going to lay down. They scrapped in the fourth quarter.

They needed some excellent shooting, and they got it. However, every time that Atlanta scored to close the margin, Mineola answered – a Pendergrass drive, a Keke Martin drive, a Moreland score from a Lipscomb assist, a Pendergrass score from an Alley assist. 

The conditioning and court awareness of the Yellowjackets won the fourth quarter.

Eight successful free throws by Moreland in the final minute of play ensured the Jackes’ trip to Prosper, where they would face the Whitesboro Bearcats in the regional semifinal Friday, March 3.

Moreland finished with 23 points. Lipscomb contributed 11 and Pendergrass 10. Alley, Gardner and Martin combined for 10. 

All Mineola fans will be hoping for the best, but one thing is clear. Regardless of the outcome at regionals, this group of young athletes has provided some showcase examples of comprehensive team basketball. 

The post-game photo last Tuesday, with the team and coaches arm-in-arm is special – a special team.