Todd Erickson said the Bartow County 2013 8U girls all-stars basketball team had those elements in the right proportion and that helped the players advance to the state championship game, where they fell, 18-14, to DeKalb County in March.
Erickson said the 8U team became Bartow County’s second basketball team to actually play for the state championship. The first was the 12U girls team in 1989, which actually won the championship.
Erickson, the athletic coordinator with the Bartow County Parks and Recreation Department, said the 8U all star team was picked after the regular season and coached by Randy Reese and Tim Storey.
The 8U team practiced a week and a half and then played in district warmup tournament in Murray County, where it went 3-0. It then won the district championship in Dalton, where it went 4-0. The team then went to the state playoff tournament in Griffin/Spalding County and played three games, going 2-1.
“Our first game in the state tournament was against the host team — Spalding County — and we won 32-14,” Erickson said.
Bartow was led by Lehla Thomas, who scored 23 points. Other scorers were Haley Stiles, 6 points; Alexis Childers, 2; and Jessica Ryan, 1.
Game 2 was against Calhoun, which Bartow defeated 15-11. Thomas scored 8 points in that game with Ryan contributing 4 points and Amaya Ford 3.
Bartow lost Game 3 to DeKalb County. Thomas scored 8 points, Ryan, 4, and Ford, 2.
Erickson credited the team and its coaches for making a deep run in the state playoffs.
“I believe Lehla Thomas is the best player in her age group in the state,” Erickson said. “Also Randy Reese did a great job with the girls throughout the playoffs. His coaching style works well with them and they developed great team chemistry.”
He said Reese and Storey brought the girls together in just a couple of weeks after the regular season, when they played on separate teams.
“They went 6-1 in the playoffs, losing only in the state playoffs.”
Erickson said the team went where few Bartow recreation department teams have gone — the state championship game.
“It’s the only 8U team we’ve ever had to go to state,” he said. “We haven’t had many recreation teams go far in the state playoffs.
“Our 14U boys went a couple of times and a couple of times our 17U boys have gone.”