The gym was smaller, but Bragg Middle School’s fans may have outnumbered those at Gardendale’s varsity game just yards away Friday, and for good reason.
Even Juan Jackson, now a freshman in the sixth-man role for the varsity squad, admitted as much after slipping over from his team’s rout of Tarrant.
“This game’s a lot better, and a whole lot louder,” Jackson said. “Wish I had been here.”
The Rockets used their frenetic, up-tempo game — something Jackson was very familiar with for two years — to sweep both the seventh-and eighth-grade titles at the Jefferson County Boys Middle School Basketball Championships on Friday.
The eighth graders jumped out to a quick 20-4 lead over McAdory Middle in the first four minutes of the game, and rode that margin to a 65-45 victory, giving Bragg its third straight eighth-grade title and a 21-3 season record.
Zac Cupps was named the most valuable player, scoring seven points. Jacob Hallmark was also named to the all-tournament team.
Hallmark scored nine points in the final game for the Rockets, as did Harper Haygood (on three 3-point goals), John Michael Burrow and Seth Reburn. That’s indicative of Coach Chris Berry’s style, playing all 15 boys for a couple of minutes a shift, not unlike ice hockey. And they play fast and hard, scrambling for every ball, getting into every passing lane, and looking for all the world like a junior version of an old Jerry Tarkanian team from UNLV.
“That’s our system. We run them in and out, and force the other team into a meltdown,” Berry said.
Twelve Bragg players scored at least a point in the final.
For the seventh graders, it wasn’t as easy. Down by 11 points to Bottenfield Middle at halftime, the Rockets turned up the heat and overwhelmed the Tigers in the third quarter, outscoring them 29-8. Bragg then held off a late rally in the fourth to take a 63-60 victory.
Demetrius King scored 22 points to lead the Rockets, with 12 of those points in the third period. Steven Crowder added 17 points. Both made the all-tournament team.