LIBERTY CITY — Frankston High School’s Robert Loper is not one for a lot of hoopla, but Friday night there was a bit of a celebration at Sabine High School.
Loper, the dean of East Texas coaches, recorded his 800th career win as his Indians scored a 61-41 victory over the Sabine Cardinals in a District 18-2A basketball contest.
Many of Loper’s former players, along with family, friends and many from the Frankston community, traveled to witness the historic event.
The cheerleaders unfolded a banner congratulating Loper on the milestone victory and after the game his players lined up to shake his hand. He was then presented the game ball.
“I feeling relieved,” said Loper, who has 543 wins in his 25 years in Frankston. “I thought a situation like this puts pressure on our kids. We are in the midst of a district race. I didn’t want that extra pressure put on them. I feel good for the kids.”
The Indians (21-8, 12-1) shot out to a 19-5 lead in the first quarter, coasting to the milestone win. The victory also kept the club in the race for the district championship.
Corey Warren led the way for the Indians with 25 points, while Ozzie Buckner pitched in 11. Tye Griffin added nine points.
Gage Hart added 12 rebounds, while Kendrick Rogers and Griffin had seven boards apiece.
O’Shean Jagot led the Cardinals (11-18, 6-7) with 15 points. Qwaylen Chumley added nine points, while Austin Jordan contributed eight.
Loper’s players were elated to be a part of the landmark victory.
“It feels good to play for coach Loper and it is an honor to be able to play in the game he got his 800th win,” Warren said. “He might not show he is happy, but he is happy inside. He will sleep well tonight.”
Added Hart, “This was a great experience for me. I like being around coach Loper. He is a great man and a great coach.”
Loper, a Jacksonville native, has been the Frankston coach for 25 years. He started his coaching career at Neches (1966-67), followed by stints at Gary (1967-71), New Summerfield (1971-73) and Bullard (1973-80). He was an assistant one year at Bullard before taking over as head coach for Vernon Harton. He returned to his hometown and was the junior high coordinator for coach John Alexander. Then Frankston came calling and he returned to varsity coaching in 1988.
All along the way, winning has been the formula.
“This is a special team because earlier in the year I wasn’t sure how good a team we were going to be,” Loper said. “But we have really come together and the seniors have stepped up.
“I am really enjoying coaching them. I’ve had a lot of good teams, but I don’t know how this team compares talent-wise — but this team I enjoy going to practice every day and I enjoy coaching them every day. … And they’re a pretty good team too.”
Sabine’s third-year coach Chris Grotemat called the 800 wins a “staggering number.”
“We were joking earlier this week, I just got my 100th win earlier this season and someone said I would have to average 20 wins for 35 seasons to achieve that mark,” said Grotemat, who suited up only seven players due to injuries.
“You come to watch Frankston 10 years ago and see the same toughness and level of execution; and 10 years from now I have no doubt he’ll be sitting at one thousand wins sitting on the sidelines coaching them up as well.”
Griffin, who helped the Indians power game inside, said, “I have played for him three years and I’m glad to be a part of this win tonight. We would like to finish it up on Tuesday with a district championship.”
The Indians will go for at least a share of the district title on Tuesday and win No. 801 for Loper against West Rusk on Tuesday. The game is scheduled for Frankston.
Troup (20-10, 12-1) stayed even with Frankston by scoring a 72-28 win over Winona Friday. Troup plays host to Sabine on Tuesday.
Frankston 61, Sabine 41
Frankston 19 12 16 14 — 61
Sabine 5 16 9 11 — 41
FRANKSTON — Ozzie Buckner, 11; Juan Mendez, 0; Caleb Whitehurst, 3; Gage Hart, 4; Corey Warren, 25; Mark Allen, 2; Kendrick Rogers, 6; Larry Thompson, 1; Tye Griffin, 9.
SABINE — O’Shean Jagot, 15; Cody Sauce, 2; Qwaylen Chumley, 9; Ashley Dukes, 5; Austin Jordan, 8; Dusty Taylor, 2; Dylan Cook, 0.
THREE POINT GOALS — F: Buckner, Whitehurst, Warren. S: Jagot (2), Jordan.
RECORDS — Frankston 21-8 (12-1), Sabine 11-18 (6-7).
JV SCORE — Frankston 30, Sabine 28.
NEXT UP — West Rusk at Frankston, Tuesday; Sabine at Troup, Tuesday.