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Rockets soar into league championship

March 13, 2019
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

The Austintown Rockets first and second grade basketball team has secured the Mineral Ridge Jr NBA Youth Basketball League championship. They finished their season with a 6-2 record.

The Jr NBA League is a nationally organized youth league designed to introduce young children to the game of basketball. Austintown's assistant coach Eric Bilas said the Jr NBA's website helps with fundamental skills designed for specific age groups and ability levels.

"The league provides two practices, but additional practices are the responsibility of coach," Bilas said. "We practiced once a week after school at AES. Since the entire team was Austintown kids we did not have to pay for the gym."

Article Photos

Austintown Rockets win championship in Mineral Ridge Jr NBA league this month. The team consists of, in front row: Mason Dunlap, Chase Raymond, Caden Hernandez, Cooper Bilas, and Bryce Stovall. In back row are: Evan Kessler, Dominic Anzevino, Levi Mowen, Jacob Trautman, and Carson Jobe.

He said the Austintown team is rare as most of the teams are made up of kids from multiple school districts.

The league functions with three different age divisions, according to Bilas. The youngest group are the

Pre K/kindergarten division, which Bilas also assists with. Head Coach Mark Dunlap said kids as young as four can take part in this division. This group uses a six-foot high hoop and plays on a split court. This season there were six teams in the division and all divisions are co-ed.

For the kindergarten/Pre K division, Bilas said, "I am quite sure that was their first experience with organized basketball."

The middle group is for first/second graders. This group uses an eight-foot high hoop, also plays on a split court, and is the largest of the divisions, boasting 14 teams this season.

The third/fourth division uses a standard basketball court and hoop. This division had seven teams involved this season.

The season begins Jan. 14 and runs to March 3, lasting six weeks with a tournament at the end. The championships are held in each division and the champions and runner-ups earn a nice trophy. All other teams receive medals for their effort.

Bilas pointed out the real win is in what the kids take away from the program.

"This program is important because it teaches the kids to work together as a team and to also have fun," he said. "YSU sent members of its own boys' basketball team to mentor and interact with the kids. For me, the most important thing was that the kids have a positive experience and learn to play the game the right way."

Dunlap added, "I think it will have a positive impact. It gets the kids learning about the rules of the game and how to play on a team at a very young age. This really sets them up for success as they prepare for Middle School and High School basketball."

As for next season, Dunlap said his team could be back next year and he is hoping to keep each of the players from this year together again.

 
 

 

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