Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blue Devils capture national AAU tournament

Team comes home with championship after falling just short in 2005 and 2006

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A group of Prince George’s County’s best boys’ basketball players recently brought home another Amateur Athletic Union national championship.

The D.C. Blue Devils 10-and-under team captured the title at the AAU national tournament July 7 in Des Moines, Iowa, with seven of the team’s 11 players hailing from the county. Prince George’s also has one other national championship team so far this summer, the Men With Vision U-8 boys’ squad. National tournaments continue into early August.

The D.C. Blue Devils defeated American Roundball California-Goldberg, 29-27, in the national title game. Blue Devils’ coach Leroy Allen had a hunch that the team would be successful even before the tournament began.

‘‘I felt something very special was going to happen that week,” Allen said. ‘‘It seemed like everybody else picked us to win it. I thought we would be in the final four. Our goal was to win our pool and get back to the final four.”

The two previous years, the team had come up short in its journeys to the AAU nationals. Playing last year as the Mitchellville Trailblazers, the same group of players finished in third place.

In 2005, also playing as the Trailblazers, the group lost to the Cincinnati Knights in the championship game of the AAU 8-and-under tournament. Cincinnati won the U-9 title in 2006.

This season, Allen said Cincinnati entered the tournament with many of the same players from the past two years. But the two teams did not face one another in the tournament, as Cincinnati finished in third place.

‘‘Defense was the key for us,” said Allen, whose team held an opponent from Flint, Mich. to only 12 points. ‘‘Our goal was to hold every team to 20 points. That’s really what took us over the hump.”

The D.C. Blue Devils defense was crucial in the team’s championship game victory. The D.C. Blue Devils were held to just two fourth-quarter points, but had stopped American Roundball enough to build an insurmountable lead heading into the final frame.

The D.C. Blue Devils opened the championship bracket play with a 38-21 victory over the California Basketball Stars. From there, the D.C. Blue Devils defeated the Memphis War Eagles, 31-24; Flint Affiliation Academy, 33-12; Arkansas Tigers, 47-32; and ARC-Goldberg, 29-27. The D.C. Blue Devils defeated the Illinois Wizards, Team Arkansas and the Indy Jazz in pool play.

Allen said the week went very well for the team, which attended museums, saw movies and enjoyed its stay in Des Moines. Allen said the team watched video of all of its games afterward to work on its deficiencies and make adjustments.

‘‘I’ve had this team for three years and I guess the third time is a charm,” Allen said. ‘‘I’ve had five kids that have been with me for all three seasons. I finally got a group that was ready to win a national championship. They were dedicated to wanting to get better. They were a total team from the start. They all sacrificed because they could have gone to other programs.”

County residents Terrell Allen, Malik Curtis, Jeffrey Dowtin Jr., Jabari Greenwood, Franklin Howard, Kyle Rawles and Kenneth Wormly played on the D.C. Blue Devils 10-and-under championship team, along with Isaiah Buck-Lowman, Jeremiah Curtis and Kamrin Moore.

The team was coached by Allen along with assistants Rhayda Thomas and Heinrod David. Lorraine Rawls served as the official ‘‘team mom.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.