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North Georgia Elite takes seventh at YBOA national tournament

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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The North Georgia Elite fifth grade travel basketball team finished seventh at the Youth Basketball of America National Tournament earlier this month in Orlando, Fla.<br /> <br /> The team consists of players from White, Hall, Lumpkin and Banks counties, and Hayesville, N.C.<br /> <br /> Members of the team are Jimmy King, Gus Faulkner, Dakota Orr, Kolbe Ashe, Reece Dockery, J. Ben Haynes, Luke Blackburn, Ethan Reeves, Eli Pitts and Cooper Turner.<br /> <br /> The team is coached by White County residents Ryan Pitts, Shane Blackburn and Mark Turner.<br /> <br /> The squad posted a 3-3 record during the tournament, which included 27 teams from eight states and Puerto Rico. North Georgia Elite was one of 13 teams in Division I, which is the highest division in YBOA competition.<br /> <br /> Elite opened the tournament with a 2-1 record in Pool A play, finishing as the No. 2 seed in the pool.<br /> <br /> Elite played one of its best games of the tournament in the opening game, beating the Memphis Tigers, 64-41. Turner led the way with 13 points, while Ashe and Pitts each scored 12 points. Ashe made six of eight shots in the win.<br /> <br /> In the second pool game, Elite pulled off a late rally to knock of ATX Knights in overtime, 44-39. The Knights, based in Austin, Texas, jumped out to a 33-21 lead early in the fourth quarter before Elite closed out the game with a 23-6 run during the final five minutes of regulation and overtime. The group of Haynes, Faulkner, Reeves, Dockery and Orr got the comeback going, cutting the deficit to six points in a two minute stretch midway through the fourth quarter. Later in the fourth quarter, Orr sent the game into overtime with a free throw in the final 15 seconds. Pitts and Ashe each scored a basket early in the overtime period. With Elite holding on to a 42-39 lead late in the extra period, Blackburn deflected the ball away from an ATX player and Turner came up with the steal. After a timeout, Ashe knocked down a pair of free throws to clinch the win. Pitts and Turner each had 10 points in the win, while King, Ashe and Blackburn all had six.<br /> <br /> Elite dropped the final pool game to Team Heat, N.C., which won the pool title with a 3-0 record. Orr and Blackburn each scored seven points in the loss<br /> <br /> In the opening round of bracket play, Elite suffered a 32-24 loss to the Florida Phenoms, the 2013 D-II national champions. Pitts had six points and King scored five in the loss.<br /> <br /> The team bounced back in the next game, winning a rematch with the Memphis Tigers. The second game between the two teams was much closer but Elite led throughout the game and posted a 36-28 win. Nine players scored in the win, led by Pitts with eight points, while Ashe and Reeves each scored six.<br /> <br /> Elite's tournament run came to a close in the semifinals of the elimination bracket as Choice Management Knights, a Georgia squad, grabbed an early lead on the way to a 38-25 win. Pitts had a team-high 12 points for Elite, while Turner had tournament-high eight rebounds.<br /> <br /> During the week, Blackburn picked up a national title by winning the fifth grade Hot Shot competition.<br /> <br /> In the competition, players shoot from several designated spots on the floor, scoring as many points as possible in one minute.<br /> <br /> Blackburn posted 37 points during the preliminary round of competition to qualify for the finals against T.J. Madlock, a member of the Auburn Raptors. In the finals, Blackburn scored 34 points to win grade-level title.
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