KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Bell Central fifth-grade boys basketball team took first place in a round robin tournament as part of the Holiday Hoops Classic in Knoxville last weekend.
The Bulldogs started play early on Saturday with a 10 a.m. game against the Tennessee Pride.
Andrew Caldwell had the hot hand early, connecting on multiple 3-pointers in the first half. However, a sluggish start put the Dawgs behind at the halfway point. Strong play and an aggressive press defense brought Bell Central back to within four points with under two minutes left in the game. But the Bulldogs ran out of steam and lost for the first time all season by a score of 31-25.
Bell Central’s second game of the day featured an improved energy level and will to win. The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 8-0 score behind a pair of baskets from Seth Mills including a really nice left handed layup that forced the Shockers into an early timeout. Bell Central went on to a 17-3 lead midway through the first half and never looked back. Solid play from Trevor Kidd and Brandon Baker inside helped to limit the Shockers offense. Brant Hoskins point guard play was very good as he directed the Bulldog offense and handled the Shockers full court press with ease. The Bulldogs went on to win their second game by a score of 30-14.
The third and final game of Saturday’s play was actually the first game of the single elimination tournament. At this point it was win or go home for the young Bulldog team. The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 12-4 lead over Powell and held on to claim a 17-13 advantage at the half. The second half began with a fury as Bell Central was able to utilize the press and turn the Powell offense over and get easy transition baskets. Alex Mays and Chase Huff dominated the boards in the second half. Mays scored 8 points in the second half by running the floor with great effort and attacking the offensive glass. Ethan Smith played well at the guard position handling pressure and making good passes. The Bulldogs went on to win 45-32.
The tourney resumed on Sunday afternoon with the Bulldogs scheduled for a rematch with the No.1 seed Tennessee Pride. The Bulldogs were very focused in pre-game warmups and the atmosphere was electric. Bell Central got a couple of quick baskets from Seth Mills and Trevor Kidd for some early confidence. The two teams traded baskets and turnovers early as both teams were playing anxious.
The defensive guard play from Seth Mills, Andrew Caldwell and Brant Hoskins was tremendous in shutting down the perimeter play of the Pride guards. Johnathan Langford played well in the first half with several strong rebounds, a beautiful assist to Trevor Kidd for a layup and also snatching an offensive rebound and putback to spark a hungry Bulldog team. Bell Central held a narrow 16-11 lead going to the half.
As the clock ticked down in the second half, the pressure began to build and the Bell Central fans made their presence felt. The veteran Pride team stormed back to take a 21-20 lead with under 6 minutes remaining in the game. With a perfect press break offense, Brant Hoskins got the ball to Seth Mills in the middle of the floor and he found Johnathan Langford on the baseline for a jumper with under four minutes left. At this point, both teams were in the bonus and managed to tie the game at 23 a piece.
Mills got fouled with under 2 minutes remaining and the Pride team didn’t like the call and drew a technical foul. Mills rattled in one of two free throws, and then Andrew Mills sank two more to give the Bulldogs a 26-23 lead with less than a minute to play. After a turnover by Bell Central with 12 seconds left, the Pride had the ball down by three. Stellar man to man defense on the Pride’s best offensive threat forced him to dribble the ball out of bounds giving the ball back to the Bulldogs. Seth Mills calmly sank two free throws late to set the final score at 28-23 and put the Bulldogs in the championship game.
The final game of the tourney took place late in the afternoon against the East TN Air. Playing five games in two days was beginning to take its toll on the players and fans, who travelled an hour and a half to watch the team play. The Bulldogs started off sluggish in the first half and didn’t got their first lead until the second quarter. Bell Central pushed ahead to take a lead of 16-10 at halftime.
The second half provided a little drama as the East Tn Air team forced the Bulldogs into several turnovers late in the game, but couldn’t capitalize due to the strong defensive effort by Bell Central’s entire team. Trevor Kidd rebounded nearly every missed shot from the East Tn Air team and showed his agility with a nifty spin move in the closing seconds to set the final score at 29-19 and give the Bulldogs the tournament championship.
Congratulations to the Bell Central’s fifth-graders.