The 14U Kings Elite of the South Georgia Kings Basketball organization played in the 12th annual Riverfest Classic in Columbus over the weekend, taking the championship trophy in a one-point, overtime victory against the Georgia Blazers (73-72).
"It’s a Youth Basketball of America tournament but it’s also a big AAU tournament and it’s the largest YBOA in Georgia," Jessie Fleming, South Georgia Kings president said.
In the 14U division, Kings Elite head coach Derrick Brooks said the competition was fierce as his players faced the top middle-school aged players in the state.
"We beat the Georgia Blazers," Brooks said about the team they faced in the championship round. "They are a huge Nike program and they were the host team."
Brooks said the Georgia Blazers travel nationally and have players from all around the state not just one geographic region. He said his squad rose to the challenge by forcing the overtime, getting the key blocks against the boards and hitting freethrows for the win.
"We were down 24-18 in the first quarter," Brooks said. "We closed it to 38-37 at the half. We closed the third quarter 53-51 our favor and then it was tied at 66 at the end of regulation."
He said his players regrouped and were able to pullout the victory. The tournament had 16 teams competing in four pools and Brooks said each game was a battle to the end.
On Saturday morning the Kings Elite battled the YMCA Kings taking that game with a 69-25 victory. At 5:30 p.m. they battled the LaGrange Wolverines winning 67-62 and earning a spot in the semi-finals Sunday morning.
The Kings Elite took a decisive 66-41 win against the Savannah Panthers before heading into their championship battle against last year’s defending champ and home favorite Georgia Blazers.
"We actually could have won the game with 3 seconds left on the clock but we missed the free throws," Brooks said.
The coach said his players left it all out on the floor battling to the point of exhaustion. He credited big plays by Shaquille Morgan, Alton Sapp, JJ Frasier and Derrick Brooks in helping the squad finish the games.
"We have an awesome set of guards," Brooks said. "We have a three-guard and four-guard tandem that is pretty special.
He said Krenwick Sanders blocked the key shot in the game that would have given the Blazers the game.
"He blocked two shots in one possession," Brooks said. "That was big. They (Blazers) got the ball back on rebounds and tried to pass the ball. That’s when JJ Frasier got the ball went up for the lay up and got fouled. He hit one of the freethrows and that was game."
Fleming said it was bittersweet being able to be back at his hometown among friends he grew up with and watching what he called some of the best middle school basketball he has witnessed in some time.
"That was major for us and the organization," Fleming said. "To be sitting there and watching it...it was very exciting. To see the eighth graders go through it and take five games against some tough competition was just an awrsome thing to see."
Game one: Kings 69, YMCA Kings 25
Shaquille Morgan 18
JJ Frasier 14
Alton Sapp 12
Game two: Kings Elite 67, Wolverines 62
Shaquille Morgan 21
Alton Sapp 16
JJ Frasier 10
Kings Elite 66, Savannah Panthers 41
JJ Frasier 18
Derrick Brooks, Jr. 16
Alton Sapp 14
Game four: Kings ELite 73, Georgia Blazers 72 (OT)
JJ Frasier 22
Kirk Hill 14
Derrick Brooks, Jr. 14
Alton Sapp 10
The team posted 27 rebounds, 9 assists and 13 steals.