Middle school Lady Tigers win first tourney of the year

For some people, colder weather means playoff football. For others, it means basketball is about to begin. Such is the case for Ikera DeVouil, head coach of Swainsboro Middle School’s girls basketball squad. She carried her team of 20 to Langston Chapel Middle School a few weeks ago and started off the season on the right foot, winning a tournament there to set the tone for the year.

The Lady Tigers traveled to Statesboro and won their first game against William James, 25–10. Although it may not be reflected in the score, DeVouil admits the win wasn’t an easy one.

“We had a rough start this game, but in the end, the girls picked it up and got the win,” she explained.

Leading the way were a handful of eighth graders, Aacaylah Murphy (7 points), Jermilyah Tarver (7), and Jalaya Freeman (2); sixth grader Treasure Phillips (2), and fifth grader McKinley Walden (6).

The win quickly put Swainsboro Middle in the championship, which saw the Lady Tigers go head-to-head with host Langston Chapel. Again, the girls from Tiger Trail came out on top 31–17.

Murphy dumped in 10 buckets, Phillips 6, Tarver 5, and Freeman 2. Seventh grader Qintasia Boyonton added 4 of her own, as did eighth grader Jamera Bing.

“This was our first tournament of the year. Although we started slow in both games, after a little pep talk and encouragement, they got back on the floor and handled business like they should,” DeVouil added.

This particular tournament made for “great practice” ahead the actual season opener on December 2 against Dodge County. The Lady Indians upended the Lady Tigers 25–27, but the team has bounced back strong.

They have since beaten West Laurens on December 6 by a score of 27–18, Bleckley County on December 9 by a score of 29–19, finished runner-up in a JV tournament on December 10, and beat Jeff Davis this past Monday, December 13, 27–11.

The secret ingredient to the team’s success so far? Working hard in practice.

“In practice, we run, we run, we run! I put emphasis on that because that’s the game plan—to outrun every team we play against. I want them to play hard on both offense and defense with no problem. I want the easy buckets, the fast break buckets, and I want to cause as many turnovers for the other team as possible. They did that very well in the Langston Chapel tournament once they executed the game plan the coaching staff had in place for them,” DeVouil said. “Where I want to see improvement is in our shooting. I have some shooters who lack confidence. Once they get the confidence to shoot the ball like I know they are capable of doing, we will be a much better team overall.”

A few players have become regular leaders: captains Tarver, Murphy, and Freeman.

“Aacaylah is just an all-around great athlete. She hustles, and her defense is the best part of her game. Jermilyah is a great leader on and off the floor. She has improved tremendously over the years; she’s a totally different player this year than she was in the sixth grade. Treasure Phillips, even though she’s only in the sixth grade, is a player who will also play a major role in this year’s season. She plays hard and has a killer midrange jumper. I’m excited to see what she does this year.”

Additionally, Boynton has been influential for the team, although DeVouil says the Langston Chapel tournament didn’t accurately reflect the player she is.

“I will say without her at point guard, most of the points from her fellow teammates wouldn’t happen. She is a very important piece to this year’s team, and she is one you should watch as the season unfolds.”

Finally, Walden spent all summer with the middle school Lady Tigers and has seen playing time during scrimmages.

“In those games, she was a factor. She won’t be allowed to play this season since she’s too young, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention her since she played with us, handled business, and held her own. She will definitely be one to watch in the upcoming years at SMS.”

Others on this year’s team are: eighth graders Azeria Kellam, Zybrionna Ford, Malaysia Worthen, and Jamariya Howard; seventh grader De’oriah Tillman; and sixth graders Taylor Pinkston, Kali Brown, Kimiya Freeman, Lexi Hills, Arlin Swanner, London Hackett, Yiale Foots, and Kassidy Foots.

Look for results from Swainsboro Middle’s girls basketball team in 2022.

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