The North Jersey Blast 8th Grade team participated in the 9th grade bracket of the 7th Annual Garden State Pre-Mothers’ Day Mayhem Basketball Tournament on May 11, 2013. They won the tournament by defeating Game 7 and the Garden State Sharpshooters.
Co-Captains Jackie Helm (Paramus, NJ) and Khay’la Latimer (Teaneck, NJ) already have experience playing against older players because they are also members of the North Jersey Blast Non-Travel High School Teams.
Jackie said there is a noticeable difference between the 8th grade level and high school, “I think the high school AAU teams play more aggressive. They’re bigger and stronger than most 8th graders. Their fouls are a lot harder than most 8th grade fouls. The high school games are faster and I like it like that.”
The Blast jumped to a 7-1 lead against Game 7, but only led by one point at the half, 15-14. Khay’la Latimer was high scorer with 17 points. When Game 7 fell into a zone, the Blast worked the ball into the seams and looked to swing the ball opposite. They found the open areas to score. The final score was 28-19.
As a captain, in the pregame meeting, Khay’la tells her team, “it doesn’t matter the age of the opposing team. We are a good enough team to beat anyone.” This helps the team’s confidence.
In the second game, the North Jersey Blast led 19-13 at the half. Jackie Helm finished with 11 points and Khay’la Latimer with 13. Jackie says she uses her experience of playing against older players to lead by example when her 8th grade team plays older teams. “I’m not intimidated by older players. I don’t change my game and I encourage my teammates to play their game. I communicate on the floor and my teammates know they can rely on me,” explained Jackie.
Khay’la tries to talk during the game to make sure her team stays focused. She is constantly encouraging players and communicating while on defense. “If someone makes a mistake I tell them immediately that it is not a problem. The next play is more important so we push harder to score,” said Khay’la.
- Morgan Ress (8th Grade, Midland Park, NJ) dominated the boards.
- Adriana Bayron (7th Grade, North Bergen, NJ) played aggressive on the ball defense.
- Jackie Helm (8th Grade, Paramus, NJ) had lightning fast speed and great distribution.
- Maddie O’Brien (8th grade, Ridgefield Park, NJ) had good help defense.
- Destiny Dow (8th grade, Teaneck, NJ) used creative attacks at the basket.
- Jenai Bacote (8th grade, Paramus, NJ) contributed in the post and guard positions on defense.
- Cara Faulkner (7th grade, Teaneck, NJ) had several strong drives to the basket.
- Khay’la Latimer (8th grade, Teaneck, NJ) was a scoring threat from both inside and out.