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Sports Article
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Travel Basketball Team Gearing up for State Tournament
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer

            In early December, Upper Perkiomen's 12u boys travel basketball team stormed through the 10th Annual King of the Court. The reeled off seven consecutive victories over to qualify for the inaugural Pennsylvania Middle School Basketball Championship, scheduled for March 22-24 in State College.

Members of Upper Perkiomen's 12U travel basketball team compete in a one-on-

one drill during practice on Dec. 27 at the Upper Perkiomen Middle School.

            Head coach Jerry Mayza won't let his players - which includes Aidan Keyser, Owen Williams, Zach Mayza, Joe Carnesi, Braden Rieg, Daniel Wertz, Cole Hodges, Isaiah Brown, Tyler Miller, Isaac Bugman, Evan Sands and Jake Venable - rest on their laurels.

            During a two-hour practice on the Thursday after Christmas, Mayza, who is assisted by Brian Carnesi, continued to focus on fundamentals. Player development is always the key, according to the coach.

            "We need to continue working on everything," he said. "All the kids need to know all the skills at all the positions."

            During the first half of the morning practice, shooting, dribbling and skills dominate. After a brief break around 11 a.m., the players start the second hour with a one-on-one half court drill Mayza borrowed from Bob Huggins, the men's basketball coach at West Virginia. The players clap and cheer as one their teammate's attempts to get past another and drive towards the basket.

            Then the activity shifted to a full-court scrimmage. The current starters wore navy blue pinneys. Mayza shouted encouragement after a made 3-point shot or a quality inbound pass. He also stopped play and delivered instruction after an errant pass or a ball handling gaffe.

            The team, which operates under the umbrella of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Youth Basketball League, consists of 12 seventh grade students who were chosen during a tryout.

The league holds intramural games for boys and girls in the Upper Perkiomen valley from first to eighth grades. Its games are played on Saturdays between Nov. 3 and Feb. 23 at Marlborough Elementary and Upper Perkiomen Middle School in East Greenville.

            The travel teams, which compete in the Inter County Basketball Association, are offered for boys in grades three through eight and for girls in grades five through eight. The teams are for players who want to play at an advanced level, according to information posted on the local organization's website.  

            Mayza described the 12U boys team, consisting of seventh grade students, as talented and competitive. "This is special group," he said. "They are very competitive class."

According to the coach, 10 players are members of the Upper Perkiomen Middle School teams. He said several compete on the eighth grade team. "I've challenged many of them to earn starting positions," Mayza said.

            The travel team, which opens its ICBA schedule on Saturday at the middle school against Penn Valley, displayed its acumen during the King of the Court tourney. On Dec. 1-2, the unit reeled off five consecutive victories over teams from Perkiomen Valley, Upper Dublin and Chestnut Hill to win its flight at the Competitive Edge Sports facility in King of Prussia.

            On Saturday, Dec. 8, it posted a 28-25 semifinal victory over Doylestown at the Charger Nation Sports Complex in Feasterville-Trevose. The next day, the team captured the 12 Boys D2 Division title with a 31-28 victory over Hatboro Horsham.

            Last weekend, the local travel team reached the semifinal round of the 7th Grade Boys Silver Championship round at the New Years Buzzer Beater tournament in King of Prussia. A 51-21 loss to the Lawrence Cards on Sunday, Dec. 30 ended their run through the two-day tournament.

            Upper Perkiomen went 1-1 in pool play on Saturday, Dec. 29. It opened with a 34-22 victory over the Malvern Eagle Cats on the strength of a 13-0 start and a 15-10 halftime lead. Wertz scored a team-high 10 points and Williams added eight points.

            The team suffered its first loss of the season later in the day, 35-23 to Lawrence. Zach Mayza scored a team-high eight points, followed by Williams (seven) and Wertz (six).






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