Monday, September 12, 2016

Fall League Feature: Augusta Eagles top Carolina Canines in Overtime

To improve, teams need to play good competition. The homeschool Augusta Eagles middle school team and the 6th grade Carolina Canines AAU team found that competition in the PQ Sports Fall League Saturday. The Eagles, 53-52 overtime winners, are on my radar for the first time since my days of coaching the homeschoolers. This squad is in good hands with Donovan Stone, a special education teacher at Bayvale Elementary who is pursuing a graduate degree at Augusta University who played high school basketball locally and also played in college. (Donavan also coaches the 10th grade Team Power AAU team.)

Coach Stone is smart to take advantage of the Fall League because of the tough competition and the difficulty homeschool teams have finding local games in the regular season. If the Eagles are able to enter enough middle school tournaments, and if they are fortunate to land in a league of some sort, I would expect them to be a real threat, especially as they improve, which they seemed to do through the course of Saturday's game at Evans Middle.

Despite trailing throughout the first half, the Eagles moved the ball and attacked the Canines' zone to find brothers Kevin and Jacob Walker, who combined to score 17 points in the half and 38 in the game.

The second half became a blur when the Canines applied pressure all over the court. Justin Lloyd scored 17 points, Zhian Briggs added 13, and Robert Elam 10. The Canines made up for an age and height disadvantaged with skilled guard play. As you can see in the video above, Lloyd has a soft touch; all the guys dribble, pass, and shoot well; and they attack the ball on defense.

That pressure revealed the nifty play of Eagles guard Johnny O'Keefe, who weaved around multiple defenders using his right and left in the open court and found teammates for easy scores. For the Eagles, Kevin Walker scored 24 points; his brother Jacob scored added 14 (11 in the second half); and Micah Worley added 9, including a putback to give his team a 52-50 lead and a free throw to put the Eagles ahead for good with 6 seconds remaining.

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