Not only playing, but thriving on the national stage isn’t easy, but the 24/7 U13 girls from the Clovis-based AAU team took the chance in stride.
Made up of three sixth graders and three seventh graders, the 24/7 girls took second place in their age group at the 2019 U.S. Open Basketball Championships held in Indiana. The girls came up just short of a national award, losing to Cyfair Elite-Texas 65-56 at the Indiana Pacers Athletic Center.
The U13 girls played live in front of a national audience and showed the rest of the country what Clovis-based basketball was all about.
Athena Tomlinson had 24 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Riley Walls scored eight and chipped in four combined rebounds and assists, while Gabby Ramos provided a defensive spark with three blocks to go along with 12 points.
The girls beat Havoc City Elite and Team Elite Basketball on the first day, Thursday, July 19 53-22 and 71-36 at the Finch Creek Fieldhouse. They upended KC Gold Elite 72-49 on Friday, July 20 before splitting their final two games Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a great opportunity for them, especially since we only had six girls – they definitely rose to the occasion,” 24/7 head coach Imamu Tomlinson said. “They played teams from Alabama, Virginia and for only six girls, we figured it would be difficult, but they played hard and together to get through the tough moments.”
For the girls, countless practices and games led them to their moment in Indiana, regardless of the final score. In Pool E, 24/7 went 3-0 with a point differential of plus 45, tied for the most in the entire U13 group.
“When you perform well, it’s not about what you did over the last couple of days, or weeks; it’s about the work you put in over the years that prepared you for a moment like that,” Tomlinson said.
The six girls that made up the team, all find themselves within the TRAC pipeline; Clovis West, Clovis North and Clovis East are represented.
Half the team are sixth graders and the other half are seventh graders and despite having girls younger than most of the competition, they proved age was just a number as they contributed to a deep run in the USA Basketball tournament.
“The more time you spend in the gym, the more skill you are going to develop, so our sixth graders are pretty skilled and of course having extra maturity and a year extra strength and coordination helps too, but they were definitely able to keep up on from a skill perspective, along with a hustle and grit perspective also,” Tomlinson said.
National exposure was something that came with success for the 24/7 U13 girls. Cameras, big crowds and a national audience, the Clovis-based AAU team put on a show throughout their time there, including a big 66-48 victory over the Southern Stars from Alabama that propelled them into the championship.
Along with Tomlinson, Ramos and Walls; sisters Mia and Ariana Reyes and Destiny Agubata chipped in during their time in Indiana.
For the girls, getting the experience of playing on a national stage is something they can take into their careers moving forward.
“If you play on that level in front of that many people, I mean we were live-streamed on the USA Basketball website and at one point there were thousands of people watching them so, once you do that a couple times you can pretty much conquer anything on the court,” Tomlinson said. “They can take this and be better players from it.”
The overall success of both the boys and girls side of 24/7 is a reflection of the commitment from the athletes, coaches and parents.
“They’ve been on the road a lot during the month of July and for them to step up; the boys team in the Elite 8 and the girls in the championship game speaks volumes about their commitment, along with their parents as well,” Tomlinson said. “It’s also the community, we practice at the Gateway gym, which is a community gym and we have to give credit to the opportunities that are available to us.”