With Christmas now over and the New Year holiday just days away, I figure why not look back at the 2 featured tournaments last week. First, congratulations to both the Bellevue Bobcats and the Germantown Red Devils on their championship wins in their respective tournaments. The Bartlett Middle School Sweet 16 was the new kid on the block with several of the city’s best teams all in one gym while the Middle School stalwart (MAM Christmas Classic) was well ran as usual.
Which tournament was better, I won’t get into all that but I will say while I don’t usually do a top 10 because I think top 5 is a bit more exclusive for middle school, 8 of my top 10 if I was to do that were in Bartlett. I was able to catch a lot more Bartlett than I was the MAM I guess because of the curiosity and the match-ups and there were some good ones.
On the second day, Germantown played against Lester, for some fans, the most anticipated game of the season because you won’t see it again being that one team is Large School and the other a Small School. You saw FACS, who shocked some getting to the championship game at Bartlett, Lester, the city’s #1 team losing 2 games in a row and Germantown winning the 1st annual tournament going through a gauntlet of teams.
In the MAM, I saw Bellevue and I marked Bellevue down to win that but had no idea that West out of Jackson would be in that championship game with them. St. Louis with Chandler Jackson went a little further than I anticipated making it to the Final 4. It just proved the notion, if you have that caliber of player in Middle School, it can take you a long way. Bellevue has kind of flown under the radar a bit with the early success of Lester and it can be viewed a few different ways but mainly due to them being a little less visible than Lester. That can be a good and bad thing but right now, it’s not hurting them. They won he MAM big by plus 25 and right now, are the best team Small Schools and it could be that way at least until the end of the season.
I remember talking to a few people about FACS before the season started and one thing that I liked about them was that they have been together for awhile and a few play summer basketball together so it makes up for great chemistry among each other. 2, Kobe Wilkes is probably the among the top 10 players in the city in the 8th grade along with a much improved Corey Savage and Tim Thomas Jr who used to be a really good defender but is now becoming a nice offensive player as well. I think people saw what type of team they were but this to, they were also missing a big part of what they do in the tournament as well due to vacation. They used to be a secret but definitely not anymore.
After all that, I guess one could conclude that doing a team ranking would be simple but it’s not easy. I try to be fair and I take into account a few variables. One, competition level, who have you played and with those tournaments last week, I took into account, who played who and which tournament may have been the stronger of the 2. When I thought about it, I decided that this would be my top 5.
1. Germantown Middle School(16-1) The Red Devils were the first team in the city to beat undefeated at the time Lester, they avenged an earlier loss in the season to Ridgeway making them the only team in the city to beat both teams and they beat a good FACS team in the championship game Saturday. They can beat you in a multitude of ways, inside, with the 3, through good guard play, on the boards and defensively, they can put bigger players on your guards and make it tough to score. With their tough games seemingly behind them, you have to think that they could hold this spot for awhile. Did I mention that Cameron Miller was the best player in the tournament for his team? Deshun Dunn also his normal self, but was hitting the outside jumper to open it for drives later in the drive for himself. Their point guard Jhamal Ross was pretty good able to hit some open shots to take the pressure of Chris Martin.
2. Bellevue Middle (19-0) Wait a minute, what? How can an undefeated team be #2? Well, see my above paragraph before the rankings. The Bobcats are really good, it’s apparent, no blemishes, just got Cartier Beverly back, JR Jacobs was the tournament MVP, AJ Dillworth is perhaps the best guard in the 7th grade and #2? I would have loved to see this team in Bartlett, could you imagine a final 4 with them in it? I was hoping to see that but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Should I take that into account? I did but they are the best team in the city in Small Schools right now and you can’t take that away from them. It will take some time with Beverly to return to his old self that’s expected but if he doesn’t , this team will still be extremely hard to beat. We just have to wait a little bit more to see them challenged on their side.
3. Ridgeway Middle (16-3) Lost to FACS who made the championship game and came back after a tough loss to to beat Lester in their second match-up of the season on Saturday. I see this team improving, I see at times where they look like they could be the sectional champions. EJ Smith shot the ball as well as I’ve seen him shoot it against Elmore Park, Kristian Spencer was really good in the games I watched. He has a knack for the finish around the basket and his ball handling seems to be improving but their key could be Chip Brunt. He’s really really talented, you see it, he can handle, hit the jumper, good passer, picks his spots but I would love to see him be more aggressive. I think he can be a player down the stretch for them that truly has a say in if they can beat Germantown.
4.Lester Prep (16-2) Coming off back to back to losses, I’m interested to see how they bounce back once school starts back. Through adversity you can see what your team is made of but I know Coach Terrell has a resilient group and one that will take on his characteristics. Markese Washington was named to the all tournament but for his team, he must be their leader down the home stretch and into the playoffs if they want to make a run at a sectional. Ladies and gentlemen, this is still a really good team, that hasn’t changed.
5. FACS Middle (17-1) Even though they lost to the #1 team in middle school, everyone knows who they are now. Coming into the tournament previously undefeated, they were pretty much a secret but beating Ridgeway and a long Memphis Nighthawks team in their first game, on the private school side, they have to be considered the best team. Kobe Wilkes, Corey Savage and Tim Thomas Jr are really good trio. Add Landon Jeffries to that mix as well and you have 4 seasoned guards who have all been through big games and they will be tough to beat. Wilkes was maybe the best guard I saw during the tournament. He had everything on display offensively and when they needed a basket, they leaned on him. For those who still haven’t see this group, you still have time, you will not be disappointed.