The school year is winding down and the last regular season sports are wrapping up, closing out what has been a very successful year for some of the coaches and teams in Johnson County. This is true not only for high school and middle school which often get a little more recognition, but elementary athletics as well. Possibly the most successful team this year came out of Doe Elementarys basketball program.
Elementary basketball is divided into three separate divisions, with the A teams consisting of fifth and sixth graders, the B team made up of third and fourth graders, and the smallest C teams having Kindergarteners through second grade. Often the countys elementary schools were big enough to host multiple teams in each division, with Doe having two As, two Bs, and 3 Cs. Coach Jerry Gentry was in charge of the Hilltoppers #1 C Team, which he led to a near perfect season.
This year we played more games than we ever have since Ive been coach, Gentry said. This past year was my fourth year. Im tickled to death with it. Ive always been tickled with this team just because of how much they try. Theyve always been small, theyre one of the smallest teams out there, but they just try so hard. Literally last year there were a couple of kids who could dribble the ball over their head. So, it was all just their hustle and determination and their drive. We try to teach them as much as we can, but its just about adapting to them more than anything. I think weve got some that really showed some potential.
Gentrys team went on to play 18 regular season games, coming up against each of the leagues other C teams twice. Along with the other two teams at Doe, there was one team at Laurel, three at Mountain City, and three at Roan Creek. Amazingly, despite their general height disadvantage, Does C Team 1 went on to go undefeated in their regular season, coming into their tournament at the end of the year as the top seed. What was even more shocking was that such a young team was able to overcome several big challenges throughout the season as well.
They just wanted it bad, Gentry said, Especially considering we lost one of our best players with a broken arm with five games to go. He was one of the Pierce twins, Connor and Caleb. It was just a bad accident. He got tripped up when he was making a steal and he landed with his arm hitting the ball as he came down and it just broke. We didnt think it was broke, but it was. The other boy fell with him. He was one of our top players.
Having lost a couple of other players earlier in the year, Gentrys C team came into the tournament with just seven active players, two of which were kindergarteners. Despite those odds, the team showed a great deal of determination pulling off a win against Laurel in the first round and then going on to play Roan Creeks C Team 1. Barely squeaking by with a win in that game, Doe had to face off against the second ranked Roan Creek 2, not just once, but twice for the championship.
Roan Creek 2 ended up being second in the season and in the tournament, Gentry said. It made it pretty hard to win four games against the number two team. In that last championship game we played the majority of the night without the twins, one out with the broken arm and the other fouled out. We had to go real small just to finish out, but they hustle. They were down eight or nine points but they just kept battling back, eventually tying it up and then going into overtime and won it in overtime.
With that final win behind them, Does C Team 1 went on to have a flawless 22-0 season, something that is very rarely done with such a young age group. Yet, when asked about what makes the team so successful, Gentry attributed it to a lot of hard work from not just one but every player in the lineup.
Weve had a winning record all three years with this team. I think last year we started one and three and then came back to win 10 in a row. They really dont understand the scoreboard; they play the same if they are 10 points ahead or 10 points down. One year they tied for third in the division. Im not going to say that we had a top player because each one did different things. Its very enjoyable because they are comical, theyre little. You want them to have fun and not get burned out on the game. They just try so hard. Were just tickled to death with them.
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