Monday, August 15, 2011

Team Memphis Elite girls enjoy more than game

In July, this article was posted by the Commercial Appeal following the Team Memphis Elite teams AAU National Championship run.

Losing in the AAU 11th-grade Division 1 girls championship game last week in Orlando, Fla., is but one of the memories Jeff Little, coach of the Team Memphis Elite-Little team, will take away from his experience.

While finishing No. 2 in the country after losing to the Ohio Lady Attack, 63-58, is a major accomplishment, Little, the new varsity girls coach at Evangelical Christian School, also enjoyed watching how his team of mostly junior- and senior-to-be girls enjoyed the experience both on and off the court.

"Some of my new girls that came with me this year, that was their first time they had ever flown on an airplane and that was kind of neat," Little said. "We were able to take them to an amusement park. A lot of these kids are from disadvantaged homes and it was really neat to watch them enjoy that and enjoy each other."

The Little team advanced to the championship bracket by virtue of going undefeated in pool play. In the championship game, they fell behind, 28-23, at the half but bounced back to take the lead late in the game before falling to the Attack.

It was the Ohio Lady Attack's ability to knock down 3-pointers and convert free throws once Team Little was forced to foul that proved to be the difference.

"When you get to that level, girls can just shoot lights out, way better shooters from the field than boys," Little said. "They hit the deep ball. They hit nine 3s and I believe we hit two."

Team Little is comprised of some of the top Memphis area players. During the national tournament, Little said two players in particular, Ariel Hearn of Arlington and Aaliyah Whiteside of Central, picked up their games.

Hearn, a point guard who recently committed to the University of Memphis, scored eight points in the final game, while Whiteside, who has committed to Georgia Tech, scored 11.

"(Hearn) was attacking the basket and running the point," Little said. "And Aaliyah Whiteside is such a matchup problem in that she is a guard in a post player's body. She's long and difficult to guard. We would post her up. She's also a threat from the perimeter and makes us a much better rebounding team."

Team Little's leading scorer was Nina Davis of Central who was the MVP of the state tournament last season. Davis scored 17 in the championship game.

"How can you not love Nina Davis?" Little said. "She's probably among the top 10 kids in the nation in that class. She's an unconventional slasher. Her ability to create offensively is almost second to none."

Since the tourney ended, Little said he has fielded calls from the University of Florida and the University of Maryland regarding Tia Wooten, who will enter her sophomore year this season at Central.

Classic champs

Also performing well at the AAU national championships from Memphis were Team Elite-Daniels and Team Elite-Williams.

Team Daniels also competed in Division 1, but was forced into the Classic bracket by virtue of its 1-2 record in pool play. Team Daniels went on to win the Classic championship bracket, defeating North Texas Blaze Elite, 70-60, in the title game.

Team Daniels was led by Central's Danielle Ballard, Alicia Payne of White Station and Lauren Douglas of Briarcrest.

Team Williams competed in Division 2, and like Team Daniels, they were the winners of the Classic bracket, defeating the Running Saints, 45-39, in the title game. The team Williams roster features Paige Williams of St. Benedict, Jamille Reed and Tiffany Jones of Manassas, and Kaelin Kneeland of Center Hill.

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