The St. James Coastal Crew Rebels 17U and 16U teams traveled to the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., last weekend to play in the Easter Classic Tournament. The 16U squad returned home with the overall tournament trophy.
"We went 6-1 overall and then ended up winning the Easter Classic in Orlando," Rebels founder and St. James Sports Center director Ernie Walthour said of the younger Rebels squad. "It feels real good to win the overall tournament and get another national bid. We’ve been going down to Orlando for the last five years and we’ve been to the finals a couple of times, but to have a team win it is real special for the Rebels program and the St. James Sports Center."
Walthour, who coaches the 17U team, said 16U coach Darryl McCray did a good job preparing his team, saying the hard work paid off for the Rebels in dividends.
"We pretty much played one game at a time. I never really expected we would go that far," McCray said. "But the energy level the kids displayed and the kids starting to play with what we’ve been trying to teach them, all the stuff we worked on paid off."
The coach said it felt amazing to come out victorious in a tournament that included about 288 teams. McCray said his players exhibited energy and enthusiasm throughout the tournament.
"I was really proud of the kids and they really enjoyed it as well," he said. "Playing that number of games against that level of competition, I mean, we know that everything we do from here out has to be game-related. The expectation for us is going to be set pretty high."
The 17U Rebels also did well, finishing the classic at 2-1."We won our bracket and then we lost a tough game to the Savannah Shooters," Walthour said. "It was a close game. In fact, going into the fourth quarter, the score was tied at 38. We made a couple of turnovers and they capitalized on it."
The win at the Easter Classic earned the 16U Rebels a bid for the national tournament later this season.
McCray said the boys will have to play and practice at the next intensity level because anything less, at this point, wouldn’t be beneficial.
"Just because we won we can’t let our guards down and they understand that," McCray said. "We are preparing for the tournament in Augusta, but the finale will be back in Orlando to compete at the national against every team in the nation as far as AAU teams in our age group. Everything that we do now is pretty much a tune up for that tournament. We will face the cream of the crop, talent-wise, in our level."
The two squads head to Augusta next weekend, and the 14U Rebels will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for the Super Regional Tournament.