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Get ready for county championships

Ice cream parties. Trips to the skating rink. Celebrations at the Mexican restaurant. Elementary coaches are using whatever they can to motivate their teams for Friday’s county championships.

The 6U elementary basketball season will come to a close in thrilling fashion as four unbeaten teams will play for county supremacy at two locations Friday. At Eastside, the District 2 champion Lady Bulldogs will be trying to hold down the Hickory Creek Lady Hawks, fresh off demolishing all opponents in District 1 this season. Across town at Centertown, the Warriors will try to make good on their coach’s proclamation earlier this year when they square off with the Irving College Tigers.

Centertown coach Brady Cantrell wasn’t bashful during the regular season when his Warriors were winning big. Asked about his team’s status as District 2 favorites coming off a preseason tournament championship and early blowouts in the regular season, Cantrell said, “I don’t mind the target on my back and the boys don’t either. We’re the team to beat in the county, not just District 2.”

The Warriors, fresh off a thrilling 25-23 victory over Eastside Tuesday, will get a chance to prove they reign supreme over the county. Cantrell isn’t putting any extra emphasis on Friday’s matchup – he and his Warriors already know what is at stake.

“We’re going to have one last practice to go over things, (but it’s time to) just show up and play basketball now. It’s another day at the office. (We will) Improvise, adapt and overcome,” said Cantrell.

Centertown is 10-0 this season, including two victories in the preseason and postseason D-2 tournaments. They are led by their unflappable point guard Kiptyn Medley, who is fresh off an MVP performance in Tuesday’s title tilt. Medley has been nursing a hand injury this week, but he looked fine in the fourth quarter while draining two huge buckets in the final three minutes to beat the Bulldogs.

Medley isn’t alone though – the Warriors have a ‘Fab 5’ brewing at the elementary level. Carter Melson, Wesley Romzek, Jackson Moore and Isaac Smith round out the starting lineup that has terrorized opposing D-2 team this season.

On Friday, they may get their toughest test to date. Anden Green and the Tigers are on the prowl and hungry for a county championship. To claim victory, coach John Bryan O’Connor knows they’ll have to be at their best – something he feels they can control.

“We’re just focusing on us and doing what we do well. There is not really an opportunity or time to focus on our opponent all that much,” said O’Connor. “We just have to be sure we are ready to execute and do what we’ve done all year long.”

Having a maestro at the controls doesn’t hurt the Tigers’ chances.

Irving College coach John Bryan O'Connor is working to have his Tigers prepared Friday.

Green was the top scorer among all elementary boys this season, dropping just shy of 19 points per night in the regular season. Irving College has won all 12 of its games this season by double figures and outscored its D-1 opponents 339-100 in the regular season, with Green scoring in double figures every game.

While the matchup between the top point guards in the county will be one to watch Friday, Irving College doesn’t lack for extra options. During Tuesday’s championship win over Hickory Creek in the D-1 finals, Green had to sit due to foul trouble for an entire quarter and the Tigers were still able to widen their lead.

Mason Petrovic, Eastlan Green, Peyton Rucker and others will all be counted on to take some pressure off their point guard’s shoulders Friday. Their coach knows they’ll be ready for the challenge.

“Getting the team up for Friday won’t be an issue. We know Centertown has a really good team – Kip is a great player so we will have our work cut out for us, but our goal all year long has been to be playing our best basketball when this time comes around,” said O’Connor. “(This game) has been circled for a while now. We’re just really looking forward to competing with our guys and seeing how things fall Friday night.

“It should be a fun one.”

The top three elementary girls scorers this year - Sarah Kate Winfree, Kinsley Simpson and Maelee Turner - will be on the court Friday at Eastside.


It’s going to be just as fun at Eastside – and a party seems imminent for whichever team comes through in the championship. Hickory Creek coach Shea Panter says she’s “bribing her team with ice cream,” while Eastside coach Kyle Cannon has a party planned if his team is victorious.

Their goal is simple: having relaxed and energized kids on Friday night.

“At this age, it’s way easier to motivate. They’re not complicated – they don’t really realize there are two districts. To them, I think they see this as another game,” said Panter. “They have a lot of confidence going into it, which we will need against a tough Eastside team.”

Cannon added, “Our girls are very excited and are hoping to stay undefeated. Mexican restaurant and skating party if we win!”

Fun motivating tactics aren’t all the coaches are focused on though. Both have a healthy respect for their opponent and are trying to fine tune things at a rapid pace before Friday’s tip-off.

Preparations for Panter started some time ago as the experienced coach has done all she can to get her team ready for the elementary league's best scorer, Lady Bulldog guard Sarah Kate Winfree.

“They have a very dominant player who we need to be prepared for. The last couple of games, we have tried to focus in on one player to get a feel for that type of defense,” said Panter, who mentioned she’s also used some of the boys at Hickory Creek to simulate what it will be like to face Winfree.

Sarah Kate hasn’t been slowed down much this season. Winfree scored 25.7 points per game in the regular season and was held to under 20 points just once in 10 games (including preseason and postseason tournaments). Winfree’s lowest point output was scoring 18 points in Tuesday’s 32-17 championship win over Centertown, where she was named D-2 tournament MVP.

No D-2 team had the firepower to go shot-for-shot with Eastside’s stud scorer this year. The Lady Hawks do, thanks to a lethal 1-2 combo of Maelee Turner and Kinsley Simpson.

Both players averaged 12.8 points per game during the season for the Lady Hawks, who are unbeaten in 10 games this year. Turner and Simpson are both capable of breaking out in a moment’s notice, especially when Hickory Creek can cause chaos defensively and get out in the open court.

Getting ready for the heat the Lady Hawks can bring has been Cannon’s focal point in practice this week.

“We have been working on our press break and getting back on defense against a fast, aggressive Hickory Creek team,” said Cannon.

Tip-off for each game is set at 6 p.m. Links to purchase tickets for the games are below:

Eastside-HC link:

Centertown-IC link:

Get ready Warren County – Friday’s championships games are going to be ones you won’t want to miss!


If you missed it Wednesday, WCSA editor-in-chief Jeff Simmons wrote about how a neutral court is needed for these must-watch championship games. You can read his column here: and also join in on the conversation about a future move on our WCSA Facebook page!

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