By Tommy Keeler Jr.
The Winchester Rising Stars didn't bring home a national championship last weekend, but coach Erick Green Sr. couldn't have been more proud of his eighth grade squad.
The team lost in the United States Basketball Association national tournament semifinals in Mrytle Beach, South Carolina, this past weekend. The only team they lost to in the tournament was a team from Fayetteville, North Carolina -- Fayetteville Elite. E.O.T.O. (from Lawrenceville, Georgia) beat Fayetteville in the final.
"The kids played extremely hard," Green said. "They played good team basketball. They played with emotion and showed they are able to compete with the top teams across the country."
Most of the players on the squad will be freshmen this season at various high schools throughout the area. Green said they have quite a few that will be attending Handley High School in the fall.
Typically you can qualify for the tournament by doing well in select regional tournaments throughout the country, but Green said the qualifying tournament they were going to in Baltimore was canceled. However, the Rising Stars were still allowed into the 56-team USBA nationals.
The Rising Stars certainly took advantage of their opportunity. They even overcame an early setback.
Rising Sherando freshman Bryce Golden, brother of current Sherando standout Grant Golden, suffered an ankle injury of the first game. Bryce Golden was the team's 6-foot-7 center, leaving a little bit of a hole in their lineup.
"That says a lot about the team when you can lose a 6-foot-7 post player and the players still made it to the final four," Green said. "They could have hung their heads, but to their credit they never gave up and they fought through it."
Green said he had outstanding efforts throughout the tournament from Chandler Brooks, Kobe Tigney, Gus Wise, Michael Brown and Josh Mack. He said he also had great contributions from his bench throughout the tourney.
"The reserves really stepped up and provided a real spark to the team whenever they were called on to enter the game," Green said.
The Rising Stars played four games in pool play and went 3-1. They defeated the Cape Crusaders 56-23, and then lost to Fayetteville 46-44 on July 9. They came back two days later and beat Team Twelve 74-53, and Joey's Little Angels 79-61. The two wins advanced them to the semifinals, where they had to play Fayetteville again. They lost to Fayetteville 54-46 the second time.
Green said that the Rising Stars tried to rebound well, push the ball up the court and shoot the ball well.
"I don't think a lot of people expected us to beat some of the teams we were able to beat," Green said.
Green said that the boys fifth and sixth grade team also advanced to national tournaments this summer.
Green said next year he plans to take the team to showcase tournaments and play in front of college coaches.
The Winchester Rising Stars have had a lot of players come through the program and go on to play at the college level, and that is still one of the big goals of the program.
"I think a lot of people don't understand that the Winchester Rising Stars is here to help prepare kids for high school and middle school basketball," Green said. "We want them to excel on the court and in the classroom."
Green said that things are going well with the program, which had a combined 15 boys' and girls' teams this season.
"I have people throughout the state tell me all the time that we're one of the top programs in the state," Green said. "We're really blessed to have great volunteer coaches in the organization who are dedicated to helping us be the best and represent us well.
"The Rising Stars organization has had great success, and will continue to do that."
Members of the Rising Stars 8th grade team were; Josh Mack, Morgan Edwards, Isiah Brown, Marcus Adams, Kobe Tigney, Chandler Brooks, Bryce Golden, Gus Wise, Michael Brown,Braxton Wright, Jake Stephens, Tyler Trimble and Cam Firebaugh.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd