HS Boys Basketball: Intense Battle Sees Willis Take Home the Victory Over Grand Oaks

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 01/17/2024


SPRING, TX -- The Grand Oaks Grizzlies (16-14) fell to the traveling Willis Wildkats (17-9) in a high-stakes, 68-61 matchup near the top of the District 13-6A standings.

After inclement weather delayed the matchup from Tuesday night to Friday afternoon, the teams were prepared for a game to determine positioning for second and third place in the district.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online, Willis Head Coach Jeremy Clark spoke on how the team stayed prepared despite rescheduling.

“We’ve been going through adversity all season,” said Clark. “Our culture is that we are going to be challenged every day, and we’re going to overcome it.”

The preparation due to the delay sharpened both teams’ defense, as shown during the first quarter. Grand Oaks and Willis engaged in a full-court press that quickly put pressure on opposing ball-handlers.

The Wildkats were the first team to adjust their offense to the pressure by focusing heavily on three-point shots. Chandler Beasley was the first Wildkat to find success from behind the arch, propelling his team forward during the first quarter.

Soon, other Wildkats like S.J. Young and Jermiane Bishop Jr. let their shots fly from three to great success.

Another contributing factor to Willis’ early lead was the increasing foul trouble that Grand Oaks found itself in. By the time the first quarter had closed, the Grizzlies had racked up _ team fouls.

Grand Oaks made a hard-fought effort towards the end of the first quarter to draw closer to their opponents through points in the paint, but Willis’ cushion was too large to overcome in the first quarter.

The fouls and Willis’ steady shooting led to a 23-17 lead for the Wildkats, with adjustments needing to be made for Grand Oaks.

“That’s one of the things we wanted to do,” said Clark on the fast open. “We practice an up-tempo style every single day.”

After taking some time to adjust between quarters, the teams resumed action with fast-paced attacking mentalities. The presses were broken, and it allowed for increased shot volumes to come from both teams.

Grand Oaks used their size to bully their way under the basket for efficient scores, while Willis continued to favor three-pointers to extend their lead.

But, when the Wildkat shooters experienced a dry spell midway through the second quarter, the Grizzlies seized the opportunity. Grand Oaks’ window allowed the team to draw within two scores of tying the affair while simultaneously swinging momentum to their side.

The lead finally came into Grand Oaks’ hands as the clock ticked under thirty seconds left in the half. A drive to the basket gave the Grizzlies a 33-32 lead going into the locker rooms, with the stage set for a nail-biting conclusion to the game.

Willis responded to their newly lost lead with a quick scoring run to start the second half, which put them back in front. The Wildkat run was spurred by fastbreak opportunities and a stingy defense that swatted shots into the Grand Oaks bleachers.

Grand Oaks replied with a lead-reclaiming run of their own, and a battle of buckets ensued, with the teams trading the lead back and forth.

For each Grand Oaks make, there was a Willis one in response, pushing the teams closer toward the high-intensity finish they had been building.

“I credit our young guys,” commented Clark on his team’s ability in rough situations. “They kept their poise and why believe in each other in those moments.”

A couple of close calls and some tough makes punctuated the third quarter and its hectic ebb and flow. The dust finally settled, with the Wildkats holding a slight advantage on the scoreboard, up 48-47.

“We needed to dig in defensively,” said Clark ahead of the fourth quarter. “We had to focus on defense and getting stops to fuel our runs in transition.”

A feeling of tension hung like smoke in the air at Grand Oaks as the fourth quarter got underway.

Grand Oaks began its closing effort with a series of baskets that continued their scoring method established earlier in the game. Efficient shots near the post and inside the key gave the Grizzlies sure-fire points when every possession mattered immensely.

These baskets paired well with the inside effort from post players Braylon Toussaint and Trevion Ogburn, who contributed clutch rebounds off the glass.

Meanwhile, the Wildkats continued to fight for every point on their offensive possessions. Backdoor cuts and pump fakes gave Willis opportunities to find open looks that kept them constantly within one possession of taking the lead.

A significant moment came with three minutes left in the quarter when Bishop Jr. was called for a technical foul after a basket. The foul gave Grand Oaks free throws, which they hit to retake the lead, along with possession during a crucial closing stretch.

With a fresh three-point lead, the Grizzlies were tasked with stopping the high-flying Wildkat offense that had given them trouble all game.

But an emphatic dunk from Bryce Bass and a follow-up and one tied the teams again at 60 points apiece, and a three from the Wildkats recaptured the lead and reinvigorated the Wildkat faithful.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” said Clark. “I was joking with Chandler [Beasley], and he told me, ‘I’m a big-time player,’ and gave us a big slam towards the end.”

Some clinical free throws from the Wildkats ended the game, with Willis keeping their momentum and lead. The tense match was finally over, and the Wildkats took home a 68-61 win and a new seat tied for second place in the district.

“The district championship has been our main goal from the jump,” said Clark. “We’re believing, and we’re still in it, but it’s one game at a time for us.”

The next game for Willis will be a home matchup against the Cleveland Indians, while Grand Oaks hopes to rebound on the road versus The Woodlands Highlanders.

Comments •
Log In to Comment