Rec dept. team claims county’s first basketball title in 19 years
Madison County now rules the state in boys’ 12-and-under recreation department all-star basketball, downing defending champion Douglas-Coffee 65-56 Saturday for the Class B state title in Effingham County.
It was the county recreation department’s first state basketball championship since 1990.
“They were really used to playing with one another,” Madison County coach B.J. Stone said. “I guess you could say we never really did have one guy. We never concentrated on one guy getting the ball — just people moving in open space and taking open shots. And all our guys could hit shots.”
And Malik Freeman hit plenty of them in the finals, scoring 29 points to lead Madison County over Douglas-Coffee. Eric Williams added 15 and T.J. Skelton scored 13.
Overall, Madison County went 6-0 in all-star play in its march toward the title.
The team enjoyed its easiest win at state during the opening round, jumping out to a 23-7 lead on Calhoun en route to a 62-45 win Friday.
Skelton led Madison County with 24 points and Freeman and Williams each added 10 points.
Madison County then overcame an early 10-0 deficit in the second round to beat Swainsboro 56-46 Saturday afternoon.
Madison County enjoyed balanced scoring in that win with Freeman leading the team with 17 points and Skelton and Williams adding 16.
In the finals, Madison County took an early 20-10 ead over Douglas-Coffee and led 37-31 at the half.
However, the team fell behind 44-39 with 4:36 left in the third quarter.
But Madison County regained the lead at 50-48 on Skelton’s three-pointer, followed later by Williams’ three pointer at the buzzer to stake Madison County to a 53-51 lead going into the last quarter.
The team took the lead for good at 57-56 on Marguez Henson’s layup with 3:45 to go. Madison County extended the lead to five on an assist from Williams to a wide-open Freeman under the basket. A running layup in the lane by Skelton finished off Douglas-Coffee as Madison County claimed the nine-point victory.
Stone said the team had the right chemistry to win a championship, pointing out that eight of the 10 players on the roster played together in an Athens premier league earlier in the winter and went undefeated.
Still, winning a state title pleasantly surprised Stone, who hadn’t enjoyed a victory at district in his five years of coaching all-stars.
“I figured we had a pretty good chance to go pretty deep into region (district), but I didn’t ever think we’d go off and with a state championship with them,” he said.
Madison County won despite not having a roster loaded with 12-year-olds.
Key performers like Skelton, Freeman, Williams and Hanson are only 11 years old. Sam Bartlett is 10 and Cade Hancock is actually playing up one age group.
Madison County would seemingly have a stacked roster for next year.
But several off this team might tryout for roster spots on Madison County Middle School’s seventh grade team.
“They’ll play middle school, I imagine, next year,” Stone said of the nucleus of 11-year-olds.
The state championship team included Sam Bartlett, Hunter Chandler, Cade Hancock, Malik Freeman, Marguez Henson, Chris Newton, T. J. Skelton, Eric Smith, Cameron Stevenson and Eric Williams.
Stone was assisted by David Hancock and Tim Skelton.