POSTED: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 11:45am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 - 11:52am
DENHAM SPRINGS, LA — The 7th Grade Mardi Gras Gators Girls’ Basketball Team, which is based out of Denham Springs, La., has won the 2012 Youth Basketball of America (YBOA) National Championship Tournament.
The tournament was held in Kissimmee, Fla., July 1-7, featuring teams from across the nation, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Aruba in four days of pool play, followed by three days of single elimination bracket play.
“The girls played extremely well, improving their play as the tournament progressed. They also were great ambassadors of the game, representing the Mardi Gras Gators organization and their local community with positive actions and attitudes on and off the court,” said Head Coach Delia A. Taylor of Denham Springs.
“I am very proud of the girls for accomplishing a feat that most others can only dream of doing. I hope this experience always serves as a positive reminder of what team work and lots of practice and determination can produce,” she said.
The Mardi Gras Gators defeated the Tennessee Glory, a team from Memphis, Tenn., by a tournament-high score of 77-52 in the championship game, which was held at the Osceola Heritage Park on Saturday, July 7. Another Louisiana 7th grade girls’ team, the Ponchatoula Hurricanes, won third place.
Throughout the tournament, the Mardi Gras Gators averaged 57.3 points per game, while holding their opponents to an average of 45.5 points per game. The team sustained only one loss – falling to the Tennessee Glory in its second game of pool play – to be seeded second for bracket play. The Mardi Gras Gators won their bracket play games and avenged their loss, defeating the Tennessee Glory in the championship game, to claim the tournament title.
Three local players earned honors for their play and accomplishments: Tremeeka Spikes of Denham Springs, a student at Southside Junior High, and Cara Ursin of St. Rose, a student at Albert Cammon Middle School, were named to the 2012 YBOA All-Tournament Team; and Caroline Taylor of Denham Springs, a student at Southside Junior High, received the tournament’s Hustle Award and All Academic Award for having maintained a 4.0 grade point average in her school work.
The team received a large victory cup trophy and individual 1st place medals.
Other players competing for the Mardi Gras Gators at the YBOA National Championship were Baleigh Elliott of Denham Springs, a student at Juban Parc Junior High; Raven Barze of Denham Springs, students at Southside Junior High School; Brooke Thompson of Albany, a student at Holden Junior High; Jessica Nesom and Tiffany Stovall of Livingston, students at Doyle Junior High; and Chrislyn Boyd of Luling, a student at Lakewood Elementary.
Each player scored in the tournament and played in the championship game. Many of the players also participated in the tournament’s individual skill contests – Taylor competed in the hot shot competition; Thompson in the 3-point contest; Barze in the free throw contest; and Lewis, Elliott, Spikes, Nesom, and Stovall participated in the team shooting competition.
Christina Canale of Denham Springs, a student at Southside Junior High, travelled with the team, but she did not compete in any games because of a broken collar bone that occurred prior to the tournament. Those team members who did not travel to Florida included Payton Chustz of Denham Springs, a student at Denham Springs Junior High, and Kyra Harleaux of Prairieville, a student at Prairieville Middle School.
Taylor has coached a core group of the team’s players since they were 7-year-old All-Star selections in the Parks and Recreation District of Denham Springs (PARDS). She was assisted this year by Lisa Dugas of Denham Springs, who was unable to attend the national tournament.
The team’s game-by-game scores and a list of individual accomplishments in the tournament can be viewed at www.yboa.org  by clicking on “Week 1 Game Schedule” under the National Championship category.