Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Elks top Australian team in Castleberry Tournament

Playing as unfamiliar of an opponent as possible for a high school basketball team, the Burleson Elks opened the Castleberry Holiday Tournament with a 44-31 victory over Australia Southwest on Tuesday.

The Elks led throughout the contest against their opponents from another continent as the Australia Southwest team, comprised of high-school age players from multiple regions in Australia, is participating in a basketball tour. It was this particular group of Aussies’ first game together.

Burleson snapped a lengthy losing streak and improves to 4-10 on the year, and Coach Ted Tomchesson said it was just what the Elks needed.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had one of those,” Tomchesson said. “To get a win against somebody from another continent, I guess that makes it that much better. It’s good for us. Hopefully this will help get us some confidence going into the meat of district.”

Southwest had six players come in at 6-foot-4 and taller, but the Elks used their speed and athleticism to keep the bigger Slammers at bay.

Burleson opened the game on a 9-2 run and held a 15-4 lead after the first quarter of play as the Slammers took some time getting adjusted to the speed of the American game.

“Generally, the game is played at a little bit different speed over here than it is over there, so we tried to take advantage of that as much as we could,” Tomchesson said. “But I’ll say this, they made a great adjustment playing at our speed in the second half and it made it a little interesting then.”

The Elks forced Southwest into seven first quarter turnovers. Burleson turned the ball over only four times in the first half while Southwest committed 12 turnovers.

Zach Bonham’s 3-pointer midway through the second quarter gave the Elks their largest first-half lead at 23-7, but the Slammers ended the half on a 7-3 run to pull to within 26-14 at the half.

After a 3-pointer by Doug Mullendore to open the third quarter, Southwest scored six straight points to make it a 29-20 game, the first time since early in the first quarter it was less than a double digit deficit. The Elks scored only eight points in the third quarter, but the Slammers managed only six points, and Burleson held a 34-20 lead heading into the final frame.

The Elks extended their lead to 39-20 to open the fourth quarter. Midway through the final period, however, the Slammers went on a 8-0 run to get to within 11 points, but it was a case of too little, too late for the Australians. Burleson was able to run the final couple of minutes off the clock to preserve the hard-fought victory.

Southwest committed 21 turnovers in the game compared to only 10 for Burleson. The Elks also out-rebounded Southwest.

Bonham led the Elks with 10 points while Chance Pennington added nine points off the bench and hauled in eight rebounds. Vincent Spradley scored six points for Burleson and Adrian Rodriguez added five points.

After the game, the two teams posed for a group picture and Australia gave the Burleson players gifts.

“I think that’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Tomchesson said. “Very rarely do you get to play anybody out of state, let alone out of the country or out of the continent. That was a great opportunity for both teams and I’m glad my kids enjoyed it.”

The Elks play at 7:30 p.m. today.

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