8th-graders end year with tourney title
Bryan Shelley was beside himself last year when the Lansing Middle School eighth-grade boys basketball coach watched his team post a 13-1 record and close out the season with a first-place finish at the Lexington Trail Invitational.
Shelley knew a team that talented would be tough to replace, and the success of that season would be difficult to replicate.
Then 2008 rolled around, and the current batch of LMS eighth-graders wowed Shelley again as they rolled to a 12-2 record and rallied for a victory in the Lexington Trail Invitational.
"I remember saying last year that those guys had an unbelievable year, and at first I didn't think it could be duplicated," Shelley said. "But it pretty much was."
Last year, the same group went 12-1 and won the LTMS seventh-grade tournament.
Shelley said the team had lots of talented players, but he said what truly made it successful was that everyone understood their roles and was willing to sacrifice individual glory for the good of the team.
"These past two years since I've been coaching, the records they've had : it's not a secret why we've won so many games. It's because everybody's unselfish," Shelley said. "Preston Padgett knows he's good, but he doesn't shoot every time he touches it. Grant Greenberg and Logan Mance don't shoot it every time."
Greenberg, Padgett and Mance were among the Lions' top scorers at various times, but Shelley said contributions came from everyone in a lineup that also included Cam Decker, Nick Hughes, Clayton Pfrimmer, Cole Taylor, Dan Van Schoelandt, Coby Anderson, James Winkler, Royal Gatson, Chance Martell, Jon Hill and Justin Lozenski.
LMS posted a 10-2 record during the regular season, and Shelley said the Lions entered the season-ending tournament with confidence.
"I think there should be some sort of state championship or city championship at the end to prepare them for what they're going to go through in high school, and we don't have that right now," Shelley said. "But what we have is this tournament, and that's real important to me. We went in wanting to win that."
The Lions cruised to a 43-27 victory over Perry-Lecompton in the semifinals, and that landed them a spot in the championship against Lexington Trail, a team that LMS beat by one point earlier in the season on a pair of last-second free throws by Greenberg.
After three back-and-forth quarters, LTMS held a 22-21 lead, but Lansing turned it on in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 35-30 victory.
"We were up by one with 20 seconds left; they needed a basket, and Grant Greenberg takes a charge," Shelley said. "That basically symbolized the whole season in that these kids will do anything for each other to get a win. That might have been our only charge of the year, but what a time to step up and take one."
Shelley said he had a blast coaching the eighth-graders, and he said he looks forward to watching them play at Lansing High during the next few years.
"We're real excited about a lot of these players," he said. "(LHS boys coach Rod) Briggs came to a few games and saw their talent, and there's a lot of kids that'll be able to help out the high school. With what the freshman group did, put some of these guys in and it's going to be pretty exciting for the next few years."
After guiding the LMS eighth-grade boys to back-to-back Lexington Trail Invitational championships, Shelley knows the recent string of success will be tough to top. That said, he has high expectations for next year.
"There's a lot of kids at the seventh-grade level that we're really excited about," he said. "The seventh-graders had an up and down year, but there's a lot of things I'm excited about building on with them. There's a lot of good basketball players in Lansing that are coming up right now, and it's something we should be pretty excited about."
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