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Rec center hosts state hoops tourney

June 5, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Every year, Youth Basketball of America holds its annual state tournament, and last weekend, more than 100 teams throughout the state came to Lee County to compete for bragging rights and an opportunity to play in Nationals in July.

Teams from third grade through 12th played for the state championship at area high schools, middle schools and rec centers, with the North Fort Myers Recreation Center being one of the locales for the ninth-grade tournament.

These teams traveled the state and the entire Southeast since the start of the year, playing tournaments every weekend (including a couple here in Lee County) to earn the right to play here.

Article Photos

Wayne Hewitt of the Lakeland Hawks goes to the hole in a game against the Chobee Kings at the YBOA 9th grade state championship tournament at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center on Saturday.


Shameca Gardner, who coaches for the Tallahassee Thunder, said while her team is young and still trying to jell, they have done very well against some of the best travel teams in the state.

"I love how the YBOA is doing everything and the teams here are ready to play," Gardner said. "The YBOA provides not only a place to play, but leadership and guidance, not only in basketball, but life."

Her Thunder played well, winning both pool games Saturday before losing in the first round of brackets.

Amiri Tate, incoming ninth-grader, said he likes to have fun and compete every weekend.

"We play from the end of high school basketball season to now, every weekend. We're trying to get college exposure and get better for when the high school season comes around," Tate said. "These games are high intensity where high school games are slower and tougher."

The teams were divided into four pools, with round robin play throughout the first day. The top two teams from each pool advance to the bracket finals, which are Saturday night into Sunday morning, with the finals Sunday afternoon.

The Gulf Coast Stingrays won the 9th grade championship Sunday afternoon at Estero High School, despite losing to Tallahassee and winning by just one to Havoc of Orlando in pool play.

There weren't any local teams playing at the rec center. The closest team was from Naples, Berkut Basketball.

Mike Giarratano, head coach of Berkut, said he liked the idea of giving his kids time on the court in a competitive setting.

"We have a bunch of kids who are gone after school let out. We try to get kids playing more and acclimate them to high school," Giarratano said. "These kids over the past year are like night and day, they've improved so much. We play a lot of All-Star teams and we're usually very competitive."



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