1A Final: Graford 42, Texline 39
Graford’s first-ever state title meant even more to head coach Jeff Bell than his previous.
The veteran won titles at his past stops but delivering the Jackrabbits’ first alongside assistant coach and son, Jake, stands out. Jake Bell, the previous head coach at Glen Rose and Martin’s Mill before joining his father on the bench in summer 2021, missed out on his Martin’s Mill team’s opportunity of playing for a state title in 2020 due to the COVID-19 cancellation.
“This was for (Jake) and he’s been a big part of it,” Jeff Bell said. “This has been the most fantastic feeling. Graford has never won a state championship. They’ve been here but they’ve never won one…it’s so, so special.”
Standing in Graford’s way, however, was the reigning 1A championship Texline Tornadoes and arguably the best player in the classification in Will Luther. Graford senior guard Marc Matthews, the game's eventual MVP, drew the assignment of guarding Luther most of the game. Matthews finished with 14 points and four steals, including one on the final possession that prevented Luther from getting the ball as time expired. He was the difference for the Jackrabbits on both ends.
“We just feel like we have the absolute best defense in the state of Texas,” Jeff Bell said.
Another key player for Graford was point guard Teagan Ford who finished with a team-high 15 points. Jeff Bell admittedly said, as coaches, they’re hardest on Ford, expecting a lot out of his floor general.
“I just felt like they were coming up on me and I should just attack,” Ford said. “It’s what they’ve been trying to get me to do all year long for the big game. I’ve been working on that and getting to it.”
“We almost want them to fail in practice because when we hit the game, they’ve faced that adversity,” Jake Bell said.
3A Final: Dallas Madison 53, San Antonio Cole 51
Dallas Madison senior Rodney Geter saw the celebration the city threw when fellow DISD program, South Oak Cliff, won the football state title in December.
He told Madison head coach Damien Mobley that he wanted that. He wasn’t on the 2019 state-winning Trojan team that beat Brock, nor the 2020 team that didn’t get to play for a state title. He wanted his shot.
“I can remember Rodney (Geter) enjoying the celebration that South Oak Cliff had during that run, and he said, ‘Coach I want to experience that, I want to win state,’ and that was one of his motivations, to get that same feeling that the South Oak Cliff Golden Bears football team had this year.”
It’s fitting that the Trojans had to go through San Antonio Cole, not only the reigning 3A state champions but also the team that they were supposed to face in the 2020 final before the event was canceled as well as the team they beat in the 2019 semifinal.
“We’re the Mecca of all sports, Texas in general but the DFW area, we work hard and we got a lot of gorillas” Pierre Hunter said.
The two teams were ranked first and second all year long in TABC.
“I think it feels good for the state to get that matchup,” Mobley said. “The two best teams making it to the state championship, the teams that been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 all season. It’s huge for me and this group because I challenged this group since day one maybe four years ago.”
Although Geter won MVP, his game-high 19 points didn’t include the most important bucket of the game. Hunter missed the front end of a one-and-one with the game tied at 51 with 22 seconds left. Kardae Turner was the man in position to fight for the offensive board and convert the put-back.
“One situation is going to separate the teams” Mobley said. “It’s going to be a free throw or a put-back rebound and the put-back rebound is what came today.”
Seconds before, the Trojans trailed by three. Latrelle Wright hit a game-tying bucket to knot it at 51.
“I knew I was going to take a three, but I knew I needed some help because (Blackmore), he was tough, so I called the screen,” Wright said. “He didn’t stay, he went back so I was open, and I knew it was going to go in.”
Cole’s Blackmore finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.