GAIL — The No. 11 Grady Wildcats didn’t accomplish what they wanted to during the regular season — win the District 8A Division II crown.
However, before Monday’s Class A Division II bi-district playoff game against New Home, Grady head coach Thomas Clay reminded his players they don’t need that for a return trip to state.
“District was a long drive, 14 games is a long time and we came up a little short of what we wanted to do there,” Clay said. “Now, I told them before the game 75 percent of all the teams in Texas are done. We’re one of the few left playing and we want to continue to do that.”
The Wildcats got an emphatic start to their hopeful run back to the state championship with a 71-33 thrashing of New Home.
Shane Teague had a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats. Zeke Clay chipped in 14.
The Wildcats were just too fast for the Leopards. Grady jumped out to a 20-6 lead in the first quarter and went into halftime with a 40-9 lead. Their largest lead of the game was 44 points midway through the fourth.
This game was all about forcing turnovers and turning those into points, which Grady did often. It’s a style of play Teague hopes takes this team far in the playoffs.
“This is a good win for us because at the end of district. We weren’t playing well,” he said. “For us to win this big, for us to do well offensively and defensively, it’s pretty good for us.”
The Wildcats’ reward for winning Monday’s game doesn’t look like much of one. No. 2 Anton awaits at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Lubbock.
Clay is hoping the playoff warm-up games and Monday’s win springboards his team during the most crucial part of the season, but the coach was blunt: taking down Anton won’t be easy.
“We have a massive match up Friday, No. 2 team in the state,” he said. “Last year, if they had been in our division, they might’ve won state. They’re way good. ... It’s unfortunate we have to match up this early, but it is what it is. We’re going to do it and see what happens.”
The Wildcats got a little scare when Jacob Rodriguez — one of the key senior standouts on this team — left the game in the second quarter after an injury. He did return to the game in the third, but finished with just two points. Clay isn’t concerned, though. He said Rodriguez should be fine.
Zeke Clay is trying to work his way back on the floor from his injury. The junior all-state selection has missed part of the season, but Monday’s game was his fifth back. Thomas Clay said Zeke is not as mobile as he wants to be, but is getting healthier.