The Grand County Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball teams are now several games into the season, and one of the teams – the seventh-grade squad – is undefeated after eight games, according to head coach Conrad Yanito.
Yanito also coaches the eighth-grade boys team, which currently has a 4-4 record, he said.
The seventh-grade boys kicked off their season with a weekend tournament in Kayenta, Ariz., on Dec. 7 and 8, winning all four games in decisive fashion. The T-Birds beat one Kayenta team by the score of 48-8, then defeated Tuba City 42-2 and Chinle 43-8, according to Yanito. Those victories put the T-Birds in the tournament finals against Kayenta’s other team, and the Thunderbirds won the championship, defeating the Kayenta team 33-18.
“We surprised a lot of people with our scoring and our defense,” said GCMS seventh-grader Alec Williams, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Joining him on the all-tournament team were Thunderbirds teammates Josh Jones, Nick Downard, Masen Ward, and Brayden Schultz.
“We’re starting to put some more hardware in the trophy case,” added Yanito. “These boys have worked hard this year, practicing, going to camps, and playing on traveling teams.”
The GCMS eighth-grade boys squad started off its season with a tournament in Grand Junction Dec. 14-15, where they lost in the finals by the score of 42-35. Later, the seventh-grade Thunderbirds defeated Pinnacle Academy 41-31 and Helper 60-1, but the team recently lost to Canyon View, 59-47, coach Yanito said.
GCMS eighth-graders Christian Wilson and Tobin Wainer said their team’s success lies in their defensive pressure, rebounding, and their ability to get the ball down low to the inside players. Center Keyon Birdwell is leading the team with a scoring average of about 25 points per game, according to Yanito.
Both of the GCMS boys teams are roughly about a quarter of the way through their 30-game schedules, which continue until early March, Yanito said.
“We’re about the only junior high level team that plays so many games, but I hope we’ll get a lot of good experience playing so many different teams,” he said.
The two GCMS boys teams will play their next scheduled home games on Saturday, Jan. 12, against Cortez, Colo. The seventh-graders are scheduled to begin play at 11 a.m. and the eighth-graders will play at noon.
The seventh-grade boys will also host a tournament in Moab Jan. 25-26, while the eighth-grader boys are scheduled to host a similar event Feb. 22-23.