The Martin's Mill Lady Mustangs may as well add the Alamodome as part of their schedule each season.

The Lady Mustangs' basketball program is on an incredible roll with its fifth straight state tournament appearance and 12 of the past 13 Final Fours. Martin's Mill could easily be called the Connecticut Huskies of Texas High School girls basketball.

Before this streak, Martin's Mill had appeared in one state tournament, 1987. Thus, the Lady Mustangs are in their 14th state tourney.

The Lady Mustangs, along with East Texas cousin Grapeland, will be competing in the UIL Class 2A State Tournament on Friday at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

No. 1 Martin's Mill (37-0) will take on No. 5 Panhandle (32-4) in the first semifinal at 8:30 a.m., with the second semifinal matching No. 12 Grapeland (28-8) against No. 2 Mason (38-1) at 10 a.m.

Grapeland is seeking its first state title since 1989 when current Tyler Junior College coach Trenia Tillis Hoard was the Sandies' star. Tillis scored 25 points and had 18 rebounds in Grapeland's 54-47 win over Abernathy in the state title game.

The semifinal winners will meet in the Class 2A state championship game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.


The Lady Mustangs are seeking back-to-back titles and their sixth state championship overall. Their previous titles were in 2006 (61-30 over Slocum), 2008 (48-43 over Sudan), 2013 (49-46 over Smyer), 2015 (49-36 over Gruver) and 2018 (58-51 over LaPoynor).

The squad, under coach Tommy Cross and assistant coach Missy Camacho, has won 76 straight games.

Team members include: 5-9 sophomore center Sa'Miyah Allen; 5-8 senior forward Rachel Alvis; 5-6 freshman guard Jada Celsur; 5-8 junior forward Kenzie Cross; 5-4 senior guard Mollie Daniel; 5-3 freshman guard Riley Jackson; 5-8 senior forward Kenley Nixon; 5-6 freshman guard Mia Nixon; 5-7 junior forward Abbie Orrick; 5-7 sophomore forward Ashley Reiser; 5-7 senior guard Taylor Sparks; and 5-7 senior forward Natalie Thomas.

Support staff includes: managers Halle Hawes, Kate Lindsey and Kynzie Miller; athletic trainer Jim Rapp; team doctor Jean Roach; statisticians Kylee Cross and Dina Cross; and video chief Jaci McMahon.

The Lady Mustangs met Grapeland twice this season, winning both contests — 61-37 and 65-42. Their closest game was a 46-43 win over Era on Saturday in the Region II championship at McKinney Boyd High School.

Martin's Mill averages 70.1 points per game, while giving up 29.9. Along with the regional final win over Era, the Lady Mustangs have defeated Wolfe City (90-31), Harleton (82-15), Celeste (90-35) and Muenster (62-34) in the playoffs.

This is Panhandle's seventh state appearance (1980, '92, '93, 2007, '16, '17, '19), including three of the past four. The Pantherettes have won two state titles — 1992 (52-49 over Marion) and 2017 (50-43 over Martin's Mill). They also defeated the Lady Mustangs 57-47 in the state semifinals in 2016.

The four Panhandle losses this season have been to Canyon (33-31), Wall (49-40), Levelland (55-47) and Wellington (34-29). The Pantherettes avenged that loss to Wellington in the Region I championship, a 53-35 win.

About Martin's Mill: It is an unincorporated community in south central Van Zandt County, according to the Handbook of Texas. The community is roughly 30 miles west of Tyler. The community derives its name from Daniel G. Martin, who owned a gristmill that was built just before the start of the Civil War. The distance from Martin's Mill High School to the Alamodome is 289 miles.

About Panhandle: It the county seat of Carson County and derives its name from its central location in the Texas Panhandle. The distance from Panhandle High School to the Alamodome is 508 miles.


This is Grapeland's sixth state tournament (1968, '81, '82, '89, '89, 2019). The Sandies won it all in 1989 and finished second in 1988 to Godley, 60-58. Tillis had 32 points and 14 rebounds in that final.

Mason is appearing for the second time. Last year was the Punchers' first Final Four. Mason's only loss this season was to Lubbock Trinity Christian, 48-46.

Anthony DeCello is the Grapeland head coach and he is assisted by Sundrae Butler and Tyler Terry.

Team members include: 5-4 freshman guard JaMiyah Bowie; 5-2 senior guard Ragan Bowie; 5-10 junior forward Tatiyana Bowie; 5-6 senior guard/forward Hannah Chipman; 5-4 sophomore guard Aeriannai Granderson; 5-11 sophomore forward Teira Jones; 5-10 sophomore forward Christi Shepherd; 5-5 junior guard Keaundra Woods; 5-5 sophomore guard Tori Woodford; and 5-7 junior guard/forward Kenya Woods.

Support staff includes: managers Trent Henry, Cierra Simon and MaKenzie Mims; and video chief Amy Cook.

About Grapeland: Grapeland is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and Farm Road 227, 12 miles north of Crockett in northern Houston County, according to the Handbook of Texas. The original settlement took the name of Grapevine from the wild fruit that flourished in the region's sandy soil. The name was changed to Grapeland in 1873, when application was made for a post office. The distance from Grapeland High School to the Alamodome is 263 miles.

About Panhandle: Mason, the county seat of Mason County, is on Comanche Creek at the junction of Interstate Highway 87/Texas Highway 29 and Ranch roads 1871 and 386, in the central part of the county. The town is an agricultural community southwest of Mason Mountain, on the Edwards Plateau and part of the Llano Uplift. The distance from Mason High School to the Alamodome is 115 miles.



Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.

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