An exciting basketball season for a local group of fourth grade boys has culminated with a win in the championship game of the Jesup Basketball League Tournament.
The J-League, as it is known, provides an organized basketball experience for area youth in grades 4-6. Hosted by Jesup Schools, eight fourth grade teams from area communities began league play in January, with each team playing a pair of games every Sunday.
The Union team, coached by Clint Winnike and Mike Spence, posted an 8-2 record in league play, highlighted by a buzzer-beating shot in overtime to defeat the team from Independence. As the top-seeded team in the post-season tournament, Union won all three games they played, including a rematch against Independence in the championship game.
The boys on Union’s team actually began learning the fundamentals of basketball and practicing together when they were in the second grade. This year marked the first time they were old enough to formally compete and play together as a team.
Coach Mike Spence noted that support for “Knights Youth Hoops” has really taken off this season, crediting Krystal Schmitz for organizing fundraising events for the team.
“Over two dozen youth basketballs were donated, a cage to hold them was donated by the high school boys basketball program, and other accessories were also provided to each coach to use for the team,” he stated.
For a core group of these players, a league championship in basketball was not the first success they’ve enjoyed on the field of play. Previous athletic accomplishments include an undefeated season in soccer and placing third in the state out of 49 teams in baseball. Before they transition seasons from basketball to baseball later this year, the team will compete in a tournament in Cedar Rapids this weekend. Several players will also play in 3-on-3 tournaments held in March.
“I hope that all the boys come back when we kick off the 2018-2019 basketball season in October. The goal is to keep this group together and find opportunities to continue improving as a team,” Spence added.