Through with its regular-season portion of its schedule after a big come-from-behind win over DFW Elite, Tennessee Flight Silver heads into the Nike National Tournament riding plenty of momentum.
When the Flight came back from a double-digit deficit Saturday morning in its fifth game in three days in Louisville, it secured an 8-2 overall record for them in the daunting EYBL circuit.
And after finishing runner-up in last year’s national tournament, Tennessee Flight is on the short list of top contenders to win this year’s title.
“It will take a lot of heart and a lot of effort,” Flight head coach Cory Barrett said. “The Nike EYBL is the best league in the country with most of the best players in the country, and every game is a battle. It’s different than anything else in travel basketball.”
Plenty of heart and effort was shown for the Flight on Saturday, as they battled from 15 down at halftime and eight down after three quarters to pull out the win.
Taylor Lamb had the go-ahead basket late for the Flight, but it was the team’s defense that willed the comeback. That defense is the team’s calling card, said Barrett.
“We limited second shots and were locked in. We forced their best players to do things they didn’t want to do, and when we did that, it made them a little uncomfortable,” he said. “Our team defense is something that we really hang our hat on. It’s phenomenal to bring kids from all over and get them to buy in to our defense, and when you do that we’ll have a chance to win every game.”
Flight has now gone 4-1 in both of its events during the season, with its only loss this weekend in Louisville coming against an All Ohio team also regarded among the top teams in the EYBL.
Sporting a balanced roster, Flight has two players who were named as a Player of the Year in their state’s division — Western Kentucky commit Akira Levy and Florida State commit River Baldwin. Lamb was also a finalist for her state’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
But it’s so much more than that trio, as Alabama commit Gabby Crawford, Vanderbilt commit Brinae Alexander and Jayla Hemingway play vital roles on the team in addition to a dependable bunch of role players.
“We have all the pieces we need to win and we just have to go out and do it,” Barrett said.
Six Flight players average at least 6.0 points per game, but on a team full of stars, the leading scorer of the bunch is Alexander and her modest 8.3 points per contest.
Flight is full of capable guards and wings and will rely heavily on Baldwin down low, along with fellow center Sydney Pearce.
“With the two fives that we have, they need to be physical and rebound and put the ball in the hole. If they do that and our guards are playing the way they are capable of, we’re pretty tough to beat,” Barrett said.
The Flight will soar to Chicago for the upcoming Nike National Tournament, which is set to begin on Monday.
By Mike Stunson