This past weekend, the 6th grade Columbus Jaguars, fresh off an Ohio AAU state championship, ventured east to the Potomac Valley in search of greater competition. When they arrived at the 10th Annual Maryland Invitational, they found a field full of nationally competitive teams. In the 6th grade division, the following teams competed: Charlotte United Stars (Finished 7th in 2003, 4th in 2002, and 1st at the 2001 AAU Nationals), Virginia Vipers (finished 10th in 2003 and 5th at the 2002 AAU Nationals), Maryland Select, Maryland Future, God's Glory (Finished 8th at the 2002 U-11 AAU Nationals), Garner Rd (North Carolina), Youth Interlock (PA), Metro Sixers, Hampton Hoyas, Maryland Crusaders, Mays, Mountain B-Ball and Maryland Kings.
The Jaguars started slow in the first game of pool play before
settling down and cruising to a 61-45 point victory. Next up was a rematch
with Maryland Select, who the Jaguars defeated in the championship round of the
U-11 AAU Nationals last summer. Maryland Select entered the game with a
size advantage over the Jaguars and understood how to take advantage of
it. Although the game was close through the 3rd quarter, the Jaguars went
on to win 54-40.
In the 1st game of the championship round, the Jaguars
faced another familiar foe from the 2003 AAU Nationals, the Virginia Vipers. In
this game, guard play was a factor. The Jaguars were lead by Stevie Taylor
and Kevin Gray, with scores of 16 and 12, respectively. As was the case in
Cocoa Beach, Florida last July, the Jaguars fought off a tough competitor to
advance to the semi-finals (49-37).
In the semi-final game, the Jaguars
faced off against the 2001 U-9 AAU National Champions, Charlotte United
Stars. The Stars have one of the most dominate big men in the country
(Jarell Eddie), as well as good size at every position. Despite their size
disadvantage, the Jaguars' "equalizer," 5'9 Kevin Gray, took over the game with
relentless drives to the bucket. Along side Kevin in the heat of the
Battle was 6'2 Nick Turner from All-Ohio, who filled in for the Jaguars' other
big man who could not make the trip. As the clock ran out, the Jaguars
celebrated a hard-fought 47-39 point victory.
In the championship game,
the Jaguars matched up with the Virginia Pride who had just come off a slugfest
with North Carolina's Garner Road. As was the case with their other
opponents, the Jaguars were at a size disadvantage in almost every
position. The championship game was an instant classic and consisted of
alternating runs with multiple ties and lead changes. Players from both
teams hit big shots at crucial moments in the game. For the Jaguars, guard
play was key. Doug Thorpe stepped up with a season high of 14 points, while
Stevie Taylor hit a huge 3 pointer with less than a minute remaining in the game
to put the Jaguars up for good (57-54). Kevin Gray was named tournament
MVP for putting up gaudy numbers such as: 95 points, 65 rebounds, 20 assists and
At the end of their east coast journey, the Jaguars were the
last team standing in what turned out to be their most competitive tournament of
the year. With their victory, the Jaguars solidified their place as one of
the top 4 or 5 teams in the nation, and are truly prepared to compete at the
U-12 AAU Nationals in July. For more results of the Maryland Invitational,
see their website @: www.marylandinvitational.com. For more information
about the Columbus Jaguars, see their website @
JAGUARS FIND SUCCESS ON EAST COAST
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