Strong Gym Rat Challenge Showing for 16U Coach Stone Despite Losses

Without one player over six feet tall.  With a roster of just six players, and one of them a soon to be sophomore, the Defenders 16U – Coach Stone managed to challenge and compete like true “Soldiers” at the Gym Rat Challenge this past weekend in Albany, NY.  All three games were decided in the final minutes, and were hotly contested battles.

The early game on Saturday showcased the Defenders vs. Westchester Hoopers.  The Defenders played the first half of the game with just five players, Alyssa McDonaugh, Jackie Rodriguez, Ashley Pina, Ariel Donza, and Kyra Fox before  Nicole Burns showed up to lend a hand during the start of the second half.  At Halftime, the Defenders defensive effort was evident on the scoreboard, with the score tied 27-27.  Eventually, the Hoopers would outlast the Defenders by pulling away in the final five minutes to win 44-37.  Alyssa McDonaugh led all Defenders with 14 points, and eight rebounds, while Ashley Pina scored 12 points, with five rebounds.

The later game on Saturday saw Jamestown Elite match their taller, 13 player roster against the smaller, but feisty Defenders.   The Defenders refused to hang their heads, or give in to thoughts of defeat simply because they were outnumbered, and outsized.  After trailing 31-19 at the half, the Defenders went on a 13 – 4 run, sparked by heads up defensive play from Nicole Burns, and the scorching hot shooting of Jackie Rodriguez who finished with 17 points, and Alyssa McDonaugh who led all Defenders, finished with 18 points.  In the final moments of play  Jamestown Elite’s size and depth began to weigh heavy on the Defenders who fell to Jamestown Elite 58-42.

The final game of Gym Rat Challenge showcased the Defenders against Next Level.  Coffee clutching parents, and onlookers cheered, to encourage their team to summon the energy for an early Sunday morning win.  As the first half of play was winding down, with Next Level leading 21-18, one of the referees made a controversial call, blowing his whistle to stop play in the middle of a Defenders fast break, for an injured Next Level player who was suffering from a nose bleed due to an accidental “run in” with an elbow.  What made the call difficult to understand, is the injured player was behind the play, and still under the other basket, and the Defenders were just a few feet away from the basket.  Coach Stone wasn’t the only one miffed by the call, and the timing of the whistle as many of the onlookers shook their heads in either shock or amazement.  The second half of play saw several lead changes, and tied scores, before Ashley Pina, and Alyssa McDonaugh fouled out leaving just four Defenders on the floor to finish the game from the 1:34 mark.  The Defenders continued to show heart, and exude determination, as Jackie Rodriguez drained a crucial 3 pointer with four seconds left to play that put the Defenders on the verge of securing their first victory at the Challenge.  History would prove to have other plans for the Defenders’ hopes, as the Next Level team was able to knock down a desperation 3 pointer at the end of regulation with no time left on the clock that sealed the victory, and confirmed defeat for the Defenders 45-44.  Alyssa McDonaugh finished with 13 points, and eight rebounds, Jackie Rodriguez scored 13 points, and six rebounds, and Ashley Pina rounded out the most productive Defenders with 8 points, and six rebounds.

The entire Defenders organization should be very proud of how Coach Stone’s 16U team represented hard work, dedication, and perserverance during the Gym Rat Challenge.  One can only wonder how different things would’ve turned out for the Defenders if they were able to travel, and play with their full roster of players.

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06 2012

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