ALBANY — Marlee Grinstead rarely displays any emotion on the basketball court.
Always even keeled and in control, it’s hard to catch the Alexander junior off guard with anything that happens during a game.
“We could go all the way to the Final Four, or we could have gotten beat last week and you’re going to see the same kid,” her father and Alexander coach Jeff Grinstead said. “She’s competitive as heck, but she’s not emotional.”
Marlee Grinstead’s poker face came down momentarily on Wednesday, as she unexpectedly reached a career milestone.
Grinstead scored her 1,000th career point, and the No. 6 Spartans defeated No. 11 Westfall 56-32 in a Division III sectional final at Alexander High School.
Marlee Grinstead entered the contest needing just nine points to reach a thousand. It was a closely guarded secret, and Marlee Grinstead admitted afterward she had no idea how close she was.
“She had no clue, you could tell,” Jeff Grinstead said. “I didn’t tell anybody. I wanted to keep it hush-hush, and I think it worked out really well. She was shocked, our crowd was shocked. Nobody had a clue, so that was pretty cool.”
Grinstead hit the mark on a drive to the basket with 4:30 left in the second quarter, giving Alexander a 19-16 lead.
The horn sounded and public address announcer Lou Horvath declared Grinstead a career 1,000-point scorer.
Marlee Grinstead did have a temporary look of bewilderment over the stoppage in play.
“I had no idea,” she said. “But it’s pretty cool to be up there with the Richardsons (Leah and Rachel Richardson). They’re well known around here. It’s a cool experience with my dad and my team.”
Marlee Grinstead finished the game with 17 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
The fact that she was able to do it while leading her team to another sectional championship was a perfect scenario for Jeff Grinstead.
“I know her goal is to get to the regionals,” he said. “That’s pretty cool that she got that, that’s not what’s on her mind. We want to keep winning games and go further in the tournament.”
The Spartans (18-5) continue their season after they won their eighth sectional championship in a row, and the 19th in program history.
The Mustangs (16-7) battled to a 19-19 tie in the second quarter, but Alexander outscored them 37-13 over the final 19 minutes and 30 seconds of action.
Westfall had nine turnovers on 4 of 13 shooting in the second half as Alexander pulled away.
“In the second half, we hit a few shots and I felt like we turned it up defensively even more,” Jeff Grinstead said. “I know defensively, I felt like we played as well as we could play. We mixed it up a lot on them. I think they looked uncomfortable the whole second half.”
Westfall trailed by five points — 32-27 — with 4:20 to play in the third after Alyssa Wyman’s 3-pointer.
Alexander found another gear from there, going on a 16-0 run to blow the game open.
The run started with a pair of Jadyn Mace 3-pointers.
Her first one lifted Alexander to a 35-27 lead, the second making it 39-27.
Mace had missed her first five 3-point attempts before hitting the pair on the right wing.
“That was big,” Marlee Grinstead said. “I’m really proud of her. She’s kind of been not very confident in herself recently, and we all believe in her. It was big for us and big for her to get back on her confident streak.”
Marlee Grinstead hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, then a pair of Karsyn Raines field goals put the Spartans ahead 48-27 with 4:22 left in the game.
The Spartans had balance in the tournament win. Kara Meeks had 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Erin Scurlock had nine points, nine rebounds and two assists. Mace finished with eight points and five rebounds, while Brooke Casto and Raines each tallied six points.
“We all love playing with each other and we work so well together,” Marlee Grinstead said. “It’s kind of crazy to see the bond that we have as a team. Our starting five and our sixth and seventh man, we all know how to play together.”
The Spartans were able to get curtain calls for their seniors on what will likely be their final home game.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of changes to the 2020-21 season, one of which is the fact that higher seeded teams are hosting games through the district semifinals.
That gave the Spartans a rare chance to cut down nets as sectional champions on their home court. The Spartans’ season had a difficult start — they didn’t play their third game of the season until Dec. 21 — but they were able to celebrate a pair of memorable moments on their home court on Wednesday after securing their 18th victory.
“You can’t take any of these wins for granted, and to get a chance to do it in your home gym, to cut the nets down for a sectional championship is pretty darn cool,” Jeff Grinstead said. “I know the girls were excited about it. We talked about being the first team ever to do that. I know that was one of their goals.”
The Spartans will play their Division III district semifinal game on Wednesday. They will face either No. 3 Eastern Brown, or No. 14 Oak Hill.
Those teams were scheduled to play Friday, after having their tournament game postponed twice due to weather.
Alexander would host Oak Hill, but would travel to Eastern Brown.
“We’ll be ready to go because our kids are not done,” Jeff Grinstead said. “We celebrated this tonight like we do every win, but we’re going to take (Thursday) off and we’ll get back to work Friday and we’ll be ready to go next week.”
The Spartans are familiar with Eastern Brown, having lost 46-29 to the Warriors in the district semifinals a season ago.
“They’re really quick, so we’re going to have to try and slow them down,” Marlee Grinstead said. “They match up up well with us, so it will be a really good game. We just have to play harder.”
The Grinstead family will enter that game having the 1,000-point celebration secured. Marlee Grinstead is just the eighth player in the girls’ program history to hit the mark, the last two being Leah Richardson and Rachel Richardson.
Including the boys’ program, Grinstead is the 14th Spartan to score 1,000 points.
“The team means more than getting the individual award,” Jeff Grinstead said. “That being said, this is a huge accomplishment. As you can look up on the wall, we have 13, 14 people who have ever done it? And she’s in her junior year. I am very proud as a coach and as her father.”
Alexander 56, Westfall 32
Westfall 10 9 8 5 — 32
Alexander 12 13 14 17 — 56
WESTFALL 32 (16-7)
Mahaley Farmer 3 2-4 9, Marissa Mullins 2 0-0 4, Kylee Henry 3 0-0 9, Carmen Walters 0 0-0 0, Gabby Patete 3 0-0 6, Natalie Holland 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Wyman 1 0-0 3, Grace Wolfe 0 0-0 0, Kendra Lindsey 0 0-0 0, Reese Moehl 0 1-2 1; TOTALS 12 3-6 32; 3-point field goals: 5 (Henry 3, Farmer, Wyman 1 apiece)
ALEXANDER 56 (18-5)
Jadyn Mace 2 2-2 8, Brooke Casto 2 2-2 6, Erin Scurlock 4 1-2 9, Kara Meeks 3 4-4 10, Marlee Grinstead 6 3-4 17, Karsyn Raines 3 0-0 6, Emma Brooks 0 0-0 0, Chloe Payne 0 0-0 0, Emma Pennington 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 20 12-14 56; 3-point field goals: 4 (Mace, Grinstead 2 apiece)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Westfall 12-38 (.316), 3-point field goals 5-16 (.313); Alexander 20-45 (.4444), 3-point field goals 4-15 (.267); Free throws — Westfall 3-6 (.500), Alexander 12-14 (.857); Rebounds — Westfall 23 (Mullins 9), Alexander 30 (Scurlock 9); Assists — Westfall 6 (Mullins 2), Alexander 11 (Grinstead 6); Blocks — Westfall 3 (Mullins 3), Alexander 1 (Grinstead 1); Turnovers — Westfall 16, Alexander 7; Team fouls — Westfall 11, Alexander 6.