TD Sports advances

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 4, 2003

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A dramatic ending and one less than suspenseful has moved TD Sports into a position they dreamed of – a shot at a national championship.

Antonio Branch drained a game-winning trey with three seconds remaining on Saturday and TD Sports followed-up that gut-wrenching victory with a 10-point victory on Sunday to advanced into the AAU 14-and-under National Championship bracket here at the Walt Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

The team, sponsored by TD Sports – an athletic apparel and supply company in Rich Square – is comprised of players representing Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties. After winning their pool with a perfect 3-0 record, TD Sports now has its sights on the top prize, a national championship.

&uot;We came here with two goals – one to win our pool and advance and then take it one game at the time in the national bracket,&uot; said TD Sports coach Chris Towell, who coaches at Hertford County Middle School. &uot;We accomplished our first goal and now, like I said before, we just want to take it one game at the time. If we play our style of basketball, we’ve got a chance to win this thing.&uot;

For a fleeting moment on Saturday, it appeared TD Sports might not clear their initial barrier. As the clock ticked under one minute, the locals trailed Puerto Rico, 50-45. But an intense defensive effort over the final 59 seconds set the table for Branch, a rising freshman at Hertford County High School, to complete an 8-1 run with his game-winning three-pointer as TD Sports advanced with a heart-stopping 53-51 win.

&uot;We were down for most of the game, but the guys never quit,&uot; noted Towell. &uot;That final 59 seconds was a sight to behold as we really turned-up the pressure with our man-to-man full-court defense. We got a couple of quick turnovers and turned them into points.&uot;

Towell credited Jeff Long and Macques Daye, both rising freshmen at Northampton County High School-East, with coming up with key steals on defense in the game’s final minute.

La’Marcius Jenkins and Tydreke Powell, both rising freshmen at Hertford County High, each poured in 18 points to pace TD Sports. Powell also had a monster game on the backboards as he hauled down 20 rebounds. Jenkins added six caroms.

Branch and rising Bertie High School freshman Kenneth Bazemore each added six points while Daye (3) and Long (2) completed the scoring.

On Sunday vs. Albany, N.Y., Powell paced TD Sports with 17 points and six rebounds to highlight a 53-43 victory.

Danny Dembry (a rising HCHS freshman) and Daye each contributed nine points while Jenkins added eight points and 11 rebounds. Branch (3) and Marcus Burnell (2) rounded out the TD Sports scorebook. Burnell is an eighth-grader at Hertford County Middle School.

Coach Towell said the difference in Sunday’s game was a big second half as his club outscored Albany by 15 points after the intermission.

&uot;I thought we did a good job controlling the glass,&uot; he noted. &uot;That effort allowed us to limit their second chance opportunities.&uot;

By winning their pool, TD Sports becomes one of 85 teams vying for the national title (the event began with 170 teams). The top two teams in each pool advances to the Nationals while the bottom two will be involved in a single-elimination consolation event.

&uot;We’re trying to stay loose with so much on the line down here,&uot; he concluded. &uot;We’re taking in the sights here in the Orlando area, including a trip on Saturday to Universal Studios and visiting a few of the malls.&uot;

The National Championship round, a double-elimination tournament, began on Monday.

TD Sports was scheduled to open pool play this past Friday against a team from Cleveland, Ohio. However, they failed to make the trip to Florida and TD Sports was awarded a forfeit win.