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Breland learns in Brazil

WINDSOR – Three Bertie County residents had the opportunity to tour Brazil this summer.

Jessica Breland, a rising senior at Bertie High School, her coach, Alice Lyons-Bennett, and classmate William Bennett Jr. took the trip, which is part of the senior project for the two seniors.

The tour began with the AAU girl’s basketball 16u as part of the Boo Williams Summer League from Hampton, Virginia. The traveling team won a tournament in Hampton and was invited to tour Sao Paolo, Brazil, spending 10 days in that country.

The team won seven of eight games and represented the United States well. They lost one game to 19-and-20-year-olds by one point (71-70).

The first game was played at a YMCA against 16 year olds (88-60 win). Other opponents were YMCA 18-year-olds (108-33 win), Continental Parpue (84-65 win), Sao Berardno 16u (104-58 win), ASBS Suzano (65-45 win), Finasa Osasco (81-73 win) and YMCA 17U (76-39 win).

The students also had the opportunity to shop and tour other places such as the hip hop mall in Sao Paolo.

Both students said the experience was one they will never forget and hoped other students in Bertie County had the opportunity to tour another country.

After touring Brazil, the next stop for Breland and Lyons-Bennett was Portland, Oregon where they participated in the Nike Girls Skills Academy.

During the camp, Breland was nominated number seven out of 22 participants who were considered the top players in the nation.

Not only was Breland chosen seventh in the nation, she was the only player who represented North Carolina.

After spending a week at the Nike Academy working on her skills with players from the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) including Tina Thompson of the Houston Comets and Teresa Edwards.

Nike awarded Breland six pair of Nike shoes, eight sportswear outfits and a traveling bag. Lyons-Bennett also received shoes and sportswear outfits from Nike donated by Thompson along with the player’s autograph.

The next stop was the End of the Trail Basketball Tournament which included pool play for 96 teams from across the country.

Once a team lost, they were eliminated. Breland’s team, the Boo Williams Summer League AAU 16u squad, along with Lyons-Bennett, an assistant coach, won the End of the Trail Basketball Tournament.

The next stop was Chicago, Illinois where they were part of an 86-team Nike Cup Tournament. The team finished third in this competition.

After leaving Chicago, the duo arrived in Orlando, Florida where Breland participated in the Super Show Case 16u National Championship. At this event, the Williams team finished fifth of 108 participating teams. Breland was chosen for the All-American team.

The next stop was Washington, D.C. where Breland’s club lost in the semifinals and ranked third out of 116 teams in the US Junior National AAU 16u.

The AAU Summer League tournaments came to an end when the squad played in the Nike National Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Again the team lost in the semifinals. Only 22 teams sponsored by Nike were invited to participate in this prestigious tournament.

&uot;This experience has honed Jessica’s basketball skills,&uot; Lyons-Bennett said. &uot;Many of the girls that she has played against this summer will be some of the same girls that she will encounter at UNC-Carolina or in the WNBA.&uot;

College coaches from across the country were lined up along the walls watching every tournament game.

&uot;If you want to be seen by the college coaches you have to put yourself in their presence,&uot; Lyons-Bennett said. &uot;Make sure that you participate in the summer at some of the top tournaments.&uot;