Youth basketball league heats up

Photos by Alphonso Abbott Jr.

Youth basketball league heats up
February 22
05:02 2018

The winter basketball league at the Carl H. Russell Sr. Community Center has been around for years.  This year the league is more competitive than ever.  With it coming close to playoff time, all the teams are gearing up for a championship run.

The league has two separate divisions.  One for kids that are from 5 to 9 years of age and one for kids 10 to 13 years of age.  There are four teams in the 5-9 league and five teams in the 10-13 league.

Last Tuesday, Feb. 13, the 10-13 age group laced  up.  With all five teams in action Tuesday night, one team had to play twice.  The stands were packed with family and friends to cheer the young men and women on.

“This year has been going pretty good so far,” said Carl Russell employee Brian Leak.  “I think this year has been very competitive and the teams are pretty even.”

Game One between the Bull and the Lakers was an entertaining one.  The Bulls used their superior height to overwhelm the Lakers on the boards.  The Bulls held a 17-7 lead at the half.

The Lakers made a run early in the second half by tying the game up at 23 with just over four minutes left in the game.  The Bulls regrouped and stormed back into the lead, winning by the score of 37-26.

The second game featuring the Thunder and the Warriors was a tight one.  The Warriors came out firing on all cylinders taking a quick 7-1 lead.  The Thunder did not fold and made a run of their own in the latter portion of the second half.  The Warriors were able to hold on at the end winning 20-16.

The Lakers looked to avenge their Game One loss with a win against the Cavaliers.  You could tell the Lakers were playing with extra vigor to not leave the center winless.  The Lakers played well in the first half leading 15-10 at the break.

In the second half, the Cavs took a late lead with less than two minutes to go in the game.  The Lakers buckled down and took a three-point lead with 15 seconds on the clock.  The Cavs had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds but missed critical free throws.  The Lakers won 32-29.

April Hawkins, the new senior supervisor of Carl Russell, says she is pleased with the play in the league.  She says she has enjoyed her new position at the center and looks forward to engaging with the community.

“So far I am enjoying it here and I have been in this business for 20 years, so I have a background in athletics,” she said.  “It has been a pleasure meeting all of the kids and interacting with the staff.”

Hawkins says she knows she has some “big shoes to fill” in taking over for legendary senior supervisor Ben Piggott.  She said she has known Piggott for years, so she knew what she was in for before coming to the center.

“Ben was well known in the community and he did a lot of very instrumental things that impacted the kids,” Hawkins continued.  “I know I have my work cut out for me, and my goal is to come in and learn how things are done and try to make them bigger and better.”

For Leak, he feels that all of the teams have played well.  He thinks the coaching has continued to improve, which in turn makes the product on the court better.

“Since we are close to playoff time I expect the kids to play hard and have fun and do the best they can,” said Leak.  “I expect the coaches to be on their best behavior and I hope the parents can come out and enjoy watching their kids do something constructive.”

William Peay, recreation crew leader at Carl Russell, added, “I enjoy seeing the smile on the kids’ faces and see them have fun.  We get to interact with them and help them any way we can.”

Former Carl Russell employee Ron Couthen says he still likes to come back and watch the kids play because of the competitiveness.  “I like to see the kids having fun and I always like to see a good game,” he went on to say.”

Leak says he does not want to make a prediction on who he thinks will win it all this year.  He said he wants everyone to go into the playoffs thinking they can win.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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