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Off and running: middle school basketball wide open this season

by Sherman A. Jones
Special to the Tri-State Defender

Pure basketball fanatics are familiar with the perennial, dominant teams of middle school boy’s basketball: American Way, Craigmont, Ridgeway, Snowden and re-surging Lester in the Small School Division. Which seems rightfully so, it is part of the reward for building and sustaining a strong program.

However, this year, something different may unfold. When it comes to the city teams, there are some strong candidates for the top spot in the post season.

NO DISRESPECT to county teams, and there are some good ones, but there is a unique situation beginning to shape up as North Memphis-based Cypress continues to venture toward their past glory days of undefeated teams and seasons. At TSD press time, The Timber wolves (7-0) sit atop MIAA’s Small Area 1 for the boys, with several 20-plus point victories.

Some might say, “Who have they played thus far? I say, “The team that showed up.”

In the past, the traditional powerhouses would lay 40-point beat downs on opponents. Although lopsided victories still occur, it doesn’t seem as often. Is there any parity in Middle School Hoops? I would say so. There’s so much this season that it’s possible the City Champions in the large and small divisions be teams that haven’t had as much barbershop talk.

Consider these few small schools division examples:

Lester Middle School (3-1) may be the biggest, fastest and most talented team in the small school division, period! Yes, they did drop a nail-biter earlier in the season to Fayette Middle School; however, Lester is unbeaten in Shelby County. Two highly anticipated games against Sherwood down the line may help tell more about the strength and depth of their squad.

Sherwood, recently placed into the small schools division is 4-2 at the moment, yet they played a competitive game against Hickory Ridge (A “large school” sleeper that may be talked about later) in the Martin Luther King tournament. Hickory Ridge has good size across the board and should get better as the season progresses.

Another undefeated team in the small school division is Vance. They have not played a close game yet!!! They are unblemished at 5-0, with a 50-point victory on their resume. Their first true test may come at Lester on Dec. 5 and then the following week at Hamilton.

Hamilton (3-1) may as well be mentioned too. They were undefeated before their overtime battle with Airways earlier in the week. The Wildcats are not very big, but they have two of the fastest guards with the ball that just know how to get it done. While Airways, not long ago played for the city and West Tennessee Sectional “state” Championship. Former team leaders Jemerrio Jones and Ladarrius Chester are now helping Melrose High’s Golden Wildcats roar these days.

Although the Jets don’t appear to be flying as high with a 3-2 record, they should not to be taken lightly as one of their losses is to Hickory Ridge in what was a very competitive game.

So you see, there is NO clear-cut favorite, but the prize is SO HIGH in the air right now that when the regular-season runs into the post-season, we may all be VERY surprised.

Large schools

The Big 3! Do we have to mention their names?

Of course, they all have earned it for being consistently successful programs in Middle School Basketball. Ridgeway (6-0), led by arguably the top guard in middle school, is a returning champion. Enough said.

Craigmont (4-1): How can you lose the best player in the class of 2016 and still be in the talk to win the City Championship? Answer: You get back in the gym, lace up your shoes and tell the guys who were playing along side him to step up because basketball is a TEAM sport!

American Way (5-1) also knows what it takes to shine when it counts most – at the end of the season, or most any tournament for that matter.

They have always been on top, and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. (Go beat him if you don’t like it!)

On the rise

Just a quick note about a few teams on the rise, let’s start with Kingsbury. The team is currently in sneak mode, but that may be about to change. Ask Craigmont!

Bellevue sits at 4-2 with a few blowout victories and their two losses by a combined eight points. They lost to the Chiefs by 4, but here’s the kicker: Their only other loss came from Snowden (3-2). I’m just saying.

Hickory Ridge has taken two defeats at the hands of American Way (one game by two points and the other in the MLK championship).

Still very early

Normally, teams get better through the year. Suppose this happens. With so many games being played very close, it’s quite possible the losing teams will get better from those defeats.

Wait a minute, I forgot to mention a very tough Havenview team.

We better stop while we’re ahead. Besides, this opening shot is just a little something to think about when it comes to the current landscape of middle school basketball in Memphis, where middle school basketball is off and running.


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