Youth basketball team competing at national level

The sixth-grade girls AAU basketball team has come a long way this year.

A team that started out as a group of girls that didn't always get along has now extended its season to compete in a national-caliber tournament in Greeley.

"Being on a team has brought us together," center Lauren Roberts said. "We have learned to get along because before the season some of the girls didn't like each other. I would have never thought that we would be playing in a national tournament."

The Bulldogs are made up of girls who will be seventh graders in the fall. This season is their first to play organized basketball since "we couldn't find a coach last year" Roberts said.

The Mid America Youth Basketball Tournament in Greeley will have 100 teams in the Bulldogs' division. MAYB is an organization based out of Newton, Kan., that hosts tournaments throughout the country. This weekend the MAYB has more than 90 gyms hosting tournaments.

In each tournament the MAYB organizers attempt to seed teams according to prior tournament experience and the level of competition. The team from Craig is entering the tournament with the 19th seed.

"I told them if we played well we could get into the top 10," coach Justin Gallegos said.

So far the team has played in AAU tournaments in the winter and early spring. Gallegos said the girls' best tournaments were the third-place finishes in Craig and Montrose. This weekend the Bulldogs are playing teams from all over the Midwest.

"It exciting because we don't know who we are playing," Roberts said. "We get to see what levels other teams are at."

Roberts has been the focal point for the Bulldogs. She's averaging a triple-double in AAU.

"If we win four (of five games) that will put us in the top 10," she said. "That is our goal for the tournament."

As for more long-term goals, "we want to break the records that the (high school) girls team broke this year," she said.

Gallegos searched for an extra tournament for his girls after the AAU season ended because "they wanted to keep playing and improving."

He has his own goals for the team.

"I want to give them an experience at a big-time tournament so when they get to high school and go to state they know they have already been there," he said. "If they can get in the top 10 it will be beyond exceptional."

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