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Future Lady Bulldog stars take to the court in Jay Team Camp

by Mike Eckels/Special to the Westside Eagle Observer | June 6, 2023 at 8:10 a.m.
Mike Eckels/Special to the Eagle Observer Lady Bulldog Brooklyn Boyd goes for a layup during the first half of the Decatur-Cleora, Okla., team camp contest in the high school gym at Jay, Okla., Thursday morning. Decatur took the win over Cleora, 12-4, for the first win of the summer.

JAY, Okla. -- Over the last four weeks, Fess Thompson, head girls' basketball coach, recruited a promising group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls to begin training as future Lady Bulldog basketball players. On Thursday and Friday, this group of young junior high Lady Bulldogs had the chance to improve their newfound basketball skills in Jay, Okla., during the 2023 Jay seventh- and eighth-grade basketball team camp. The results were promising for Thompson and his assistant coaches, Katie Sojka and Mike Eckels.

Many of the sixth graders, who will be in seventh grade during the 2023-24 school year, have never played basketball before, while others were part of the fifth- and sixth-grade Boys and Girls Club basketball league in Siloam Springs. The girls began working together and growing as a team as time progressed. The Jay team camp was the first time Thompson would see his new players in action to work out any deficiency that cropped up during the experience.

The new junior high Lady Bulldogs were led on this outing by veterans and members of the 2022-23 Decatur junior high Lady Bulldog 1A-1 district regular and tournament championship team, including Brooklyn Boyd, Ruby Frye and Kacie Wood. These veterans played a pivotal role in leading their younger teammates to five victories and one overtime loss. The new team members included Maddy Price, Kaylee Bankston, Bailey Spackman, Balentina Batres, Jenny Fuentes, Bethseba Sui, Olivia Hnem, Salome Kanono, Edia Maldonado, Andrea Rodriquez, Kate Herrera and Jami Martin.

Each team played two 14 minutes halves with only a two-minute break.

Day one pitted the Lady Bulldogs against the Cleora Lady Cardinals, Wyandotte Lady Bears, and the host Jay Lady Bulldogs. In the first contest, the Lady Bulldogs quickly grabbed the lead and held Cleora to only a field goal by the end of the first half. The Lady Bulldogs went on to take its first contest of the summer, 22-12, over Cleora.

Decatur faced the Wyandotte Lady Bears in the second contest of day one. This contest was all about missed scoring opportunities for both teams and, by the end of the second half, the score was tied at 12 each. This led to a free-throw shootout. The five players from both teams who finished the contest shot the free throw. The Lady Bears were up first. Fortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, Wyandotte missed all five free throws, putting Decatur in the catbird seat (good position).

The Lady Bulldogs needed one free throw to win. But all five of the Lady Bulldogs missed their free throws, sending the game into a second free throw shootout. This time the first three Lady Bears hit their free throws to lead the shootout. The Lady Bulldogs had five tries to hit four free throws to win the game. Decatur hit the first two shots and missed the next two, putting the tying shot on veteran Brooklyn Boyd. Her shot rolled around the rim and popped out, giving the Wyandotte Lady Bears the win by one free throw.

The Lady Bulldogs finished day one in the old middle school gym, which was not air-conditioned like the main gym. So the afternoon heat played a big factor for both Decatur and the Jay Lady Bulldogs. Fortunately, Decatur prevailed, taking its second win of the contest, 25-12, over the host Jay Lady Bulldogs. Decatur finished day one with a pair of wins and one loss.

Day two started earlier for Decatur with an 8 a.m. contest against the Cloera Lady Cardinals. The Lady Bulldogs started strong in the first minutes of play, but the energy level dropped off and the Lady Cardinals took full advantage and grabbed the lead for the first time. Cloera held the lead until the last three minutes of the first half when the Lady Bulldogs finally woke up and began playing again. By the end of the first half, Decatur regained the lead. The second half was all Lady Bulldogs as they took the first game of day two, 12-4, over Cleora.

In the second game, the Lady Bulldogs returned to the main gym to face the Vinita Lady Hornets. Decatur prevailed, taking its fourth win of the team camp.

The Decatur junior high team finished the Jay camp against the host Lady Bulldogs. Once again, Decatur walked away in the first half, holding Jay to only four points. Jay tried to come back in the final 14 minutes, but the Decatur Lady Bulldogs held on to take their fifth win of the camp, 25-12, over Jay.

It was a positive experience for the new Lady Bulldog players as the team finished the two-day team camp with five wins and one loss. More than just the wins or losses, the camp was a golden opportunity for Thompson and his staff to see how the young players perform in a competitive environment and enable them to work on weak areas each player showed during this event.

The Decatur Lady Bulldogs plan to be back in action during another team camp later in the summer.

photo Lily Schopper/Special to the Eagle Observer Andrea Rodriquez (34) tries to take the ball away from an opposing Lady Bulldog player during the first half of the Decatur-Jay, Okla., junior high team camp contest in the high school gym in Jay Thursday morning. Decatur took its second win of the camp over the host Jay Lady Bulldogs in that contest.
photo Mike Eckels/Special to the Eagle Observer Lady Bulldog Casie Wood (33) puts up a shot form the three-point line during the Decatur-Cleora, Okla., basketball contest in the gym at Jay High School in Oklahoma Thursday morning. The Decatur Lady Bulldogs took the win over Cleora in the first day of the Bulldogs junior high team camp in Jay.
photo Brooklyn Boyd/ Special to the Eagle Observer Ruby Frye (21) drives the ball past a Lady Cardinal player on her way to the basket during the Friday morning Decatur-Cleora junior high team camp contest in the old gym at the middle school in Jay, Okla. Frye was a member of the 2022-2023 Decatur Lady Bulldog junior high undefeated district champions.

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