Local girls basketball team tastes Sweet 16Published 10:26pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The local Amateur Athletic Union girls’ basketball team known as Team Evolve has a storied four-year history with regional, state and national championships to its name.
Though it did not add any state or national titles to its collection this year, it tackled a higher level of competition and showed future, older opponents that it is going to be a formidable competitor.
Team Evolve recently had the option to go to the seventh-grade national tournament in Ohio, but opted instead for sunny Orlando, Fla. where it had also qualified for the eighth-grade division II national tourney.
Despite having only two players solely eligible for the eighth-grade level, Team Evolve went 7-1, advancing to the Sweet 16 in a field of at least 64 teams.
“Finishing ninth overall, with a very young group, we represented the city of Suffolk well,” Team Evolve director and head coach Kevin Davis wrote in an email.
The lone loss came to the eventual national champion, Mississippi Elite.
Though Team Evolve features five eighth-graders, it also has four seventh-graders, one sixth- and one fifth-grader.
Much of the squad has been together for a while, and based on how it performed at the super-regional tournaments, it was even qualified for the eighth-grade division I national tourney. However, Davis said, “I just felt that we were not quite there yet.”
But given the physicality of the current roster, he thought eighth-grade division II was a good test.
He praised the entire team, but highlighted certain key contributors.
“I’d say throughout the whole entire time, the girls have been consistent,” he said. “Camary Harris, she’s always been consistent. She’s also the scorer.”
Harris explained how she was able to maintain her offensive effectiveness despite the older opposition.
“That comes from being in the gym 24/7, being at the YMCA playing against guys that are older than me and just giving my blood, sweat and tears every time I hit the court,” she said.
Davis cited Harris, Makayla Dickens and Brianna Jones as averaging 12 points per game during the tourney.
“Makayla Dickens, she was very clutch at times when we needed it,” Davis said.
Dickens said she was happy that she was able to knock down some threes, and she described what playing against older competition was like.
“It was tougher, faster, quicker; the pace of the game was very quick,” she said. “It was fun actually, and it was more competitive.”
Davis underlined Briana Autrey’s importance to the team.
“She always set the tempo, defensively,” he said. “We put her on the their best ball handler, and we just said, ‘Make her life very difficult for the next 32 minutes.’”
Autrey averaged eight steals per game.
He also praised Jonae Cox for coming off the bench and stepping up her game, averaging six steals per contest.
Amesha Miller averaged 10 rebounds and Koriana Carter averaged six assists.
In terms of the 48-28 loss to the up-tempo Mississippi Elite, Davis said, “Our style of basketball was pretty much the same (as theirs), however, they went 19-for-23 from the free throw line and we went 2-for-21.”
The loss put the team in a funk as it continued to play for ninth place. In the next game, Team Evolve trailed by 17 at halftime to a Maryland team.
“They had to fight back and actually win, and I think that’s the game where they got themselves back together,” he said.
They went on to win 36-26, won the following game 44-39 and defeated the Lady Raptors 66-47 to secure ninth place.
Team Evolve’s performance left Davis optimistic about the future.
“It set conditions for us to attend next year in eighth-grade division I,” he said.