Seventh graders start basketball careers undefeated

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Don't underestimate the Craig Middle School seventh grade A-team in basketball.

They may be small but they were mighty this year with a 9-0 record on the way to winning the district championship.

"They were smaller than the other teams," said coach Alicia Townsend. "But they had a great attitude as well as speed and it led to wins."

The Bulldogs had several close battles, including a five-point win over Rangely in overtime and a two-point victory, 24-22, in the district championship against Meeker.

Townsend said her student athletes couldn't have been any more excited to be on a team and have a school uniform.

"They wanted to know if they could wear their uniforms to school," she said. "They are always in the gym playing when they have a chance and a lot of times they are playing against the boys."

In her 10th year of coaching and third year as a middle school head coach, Townsend said she was proud of her team, which was evident by the district trophy displayed in her room.

Going into the tournament, she knew Meeker would give them a battle so she installed a spread offense for the end of the game to run out the clock if that strategy was necessary.

"At first they just wanted to keep taking the ball to the hoop," she said. "But they picked it up quick that the purpose was to run out the clock and that's what they did against Meeker for the win."

With seventh grade being the first year of organized school basketball, Townsend said the focus was to teach the fundamentals but not to make it just seem like drill after drill.

"If you make anything a competition or a game for a middle schooler they are going to go after it," she said. "We tried to make practice fun and competitive at the same time."

Townsend also will coach the same team next year when they move up to eighth grade and she said she encouraged them in their off season to spend some time with the roundball.

"I told them it was important to play as much one-on-one as possible and to watch the game on TV," she said. "The more court time, the more enjoyable the sport can become."

While they can't control their height, the young Bulldogs can control their skill level.

"I encouraged them to take a ball with them on vacation and just dribble it when they had a chance," she said. "Getting a feel for the ball is where they have to start and they've done a

good job so far."

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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