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MIDDLE SCHOOL MANIA

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By Ryan Naus

The Grant County Middle School basketball teams had success this year and each hope to build on it in upcoming years.

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Eighth Grade Boys

The eighth grade boys’ team came into the season with high expectations, setting goals of winning the conference or the conference tournament. They weren’t able to make those dreams a reality, but, according to their coach, have a lot of talent to build on.

“This year’s team has a great deal of talent and when we worked together, we were able to beat anyone in our conference,” coach Shawn West said. “But like most conferences, we can also be beaten on any given night.”

The Braves ended the season with a 12-11 record. They won the Holiday Classic Championship, which they hosted over the Christmas break. Nathan Yazell earned all-tournament honors during the conference tournament.

“As a middle school coach, my main goal is to build upon the fundamentals that have been taught to them at the elementary level as they head into their varsity careers,” West said. “It is really a neat experience watching children come to us as sixth graders and see them transition both physically and mentally.”

The eighth grade boys’ are currently preparing for the KBA Middle School state tournament on Feb. 20-22.

Eighth Grade Girls

The eighth grade girls’ team made it to the consolation game of their tournament, eventually earning fourth place. The girls’ finished the season 8-14.

“It was certainly a pleasure to make it to the consolation game,” eighth grade coach Marcus Camacho said. “This team has done an outstanding job in their ethic and it paid off at the end of the season. They were definitely playing their best basketball at the end of the year.”

Camacho lists the girls’ most memorable moment as their rematch against Ockerman Middle School, after falling in their first matchup 21-14. The girls needed to win to move from the sixth seed to the fourth seed and won 30-9, holding Ockerman without a field goal for a majority of the game.

Several standouts for the team were Raven Wilson and Christina Mohnike.

“We just wanted to continue to improve. The eighth grade has a bright future because they are a hardworking group of girls,” Camacho said.

Seventh Grade Boys

The seventh grade boys’ competed for their championship, earning a spot in the finals despite being the fifth seed and playing the fourth and first seed to get there.

“My guys came into the tournament with nothing to lose,” coach Mark Cummins said. “Every team we played was a higher seed and we just needed to go out and play and make sure we left everything on the floor so that no matter what the outcome, we could look back and say we played as hard as we could. We came in focused and ready to play. The final outcome was not what we wanted in the final, but we played hard and I, along with the fans of this team, are excited about this team and their potential in the future.”

Cummins believes some highlights were winning their Christmas tournament and their success against local teams. Cummins credits the teams’ success to the fact that all the players played together. Their final record was 12-12.

The team had to overcome the early season injury to their point guard, but other players stepped up to help the team realize the potential that they had.

Seventh Grade Girls

The seventh grade girls’ team earned a spot in the consolation game after falling to the number one seed 51-48 in the semifinals. Their final record was 13-8.

“It was a heartbreaking loss, but it allowed us to see what we were made of as a team,” Camacho, who also coaches the seventh grade, said. “We played really strong down the stretch, winning five out of our last seven games. We played really hard in the first two rounds of the tournament. If we had one more minute added to the game against Camp Ernst (number one seed), there is little doubt in my mind we would have pulled it off.”

For the seventh grade team, Alex Stamper, Molley Pelfrey and Kendall Burk were players that stood out for Camacho.

Camacho hopes the girls will use this season as a learning experience that they can build on next year.

Sixth Grade Boys

The sixth grade boys’ team finished in the top 16 of the sixth grade state tournament.

“I am proud of how this group of players learned to work as a team and not individuals,” coach Steve Kellam said. “As the year went on, they discovered their strengths and weaknesses and put that all together in order to win over stiff competition.”

With a 20-7 record, the boys headed to the state tournament, ready to play Clinton County. The boys beat Clinton County on a buzzer beater by Jordan Saylor. The boys defeated Montgomery County before being eliminated by South Laurel.

Some highlights from the season were winning their Christmas tournament and then following that up by winning another holiday tournament in Covington. The team was lead by Trenton Wainscott, Austin Johnson and Saylor, but also had excellent support from the rest of the team.

“This team learned how to play team defense,” Kellam said. “They exceeded all expectations and even if we were not the most talented team on the floor, this group would not quit and battled to the end.”

Sixth Grade Girls

The sixth grade girls’ team ended their season in the championship game, finishing as the second best team in the state. Their final record was 12-5.

“I thought our girls showed tremendous heart and effort,” coach Patrick Butcher said. “We kept coming back and fighting. We really wanted to bring home a championship for Grant County. It was a great effort against a great team.”

Butcher believed that some highlights were when the team got to the tournament, playing after being out of school from the winter weather.

“I was pleased with how we responded to adversary and we knew that we would have to beat some great teams to get to the championship,” Butcher said. “Another highlight was that everyone was able to score throughout the season. They came together and played as a team.”

Macy Wright, Hannah Kitchens, Katelyn Simons and Caylee Ruber were standouts for Butcher. He also credited the whole team for the success they enjoyed this season.