BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The Volusia County Middle School basketball season ended with a bang.
Two well-hyped championship games were played in front of good and boisterous crowds at Mainland High on Tuesday evening.
In the girls’ game, the Eastern Division Champion Campbell (12-1) handled Western Division champ River Springs Middle School of Orange City (8-3) 36-20.
“The girls worked very hard and in the end they won,” said Arthur Westbrook, Campbell’s head coach.
Westbrook won the title in his first season leading the program.
“From day one, I showed the girls the banner on the wall of the last championship team with Coach George Butts and Ronni Williams. When I took this job…the principal at the time asked me what I wanted to accomplish. I told him to be on that wall,’’ Westbrook related.
The Lady Spartans used an up tempo offense and smothering press defense en route to victory.
Eighth-grade guard Richainti Harrell dominated on both ends of the floor and finished with 28 points for Campbell.
“It feels great to win. We saw a championship ahead of us. I just felt it. I knew that I could score,” said Harrell.
Teamwork and dedication
Campbell Middle also got help from seventh-grader Jhaid Westbrook (defense, ball handling, screens) and Taniah Anderson (defense) and Aniya Dixon, who each scored two points.
“It took a lot of hard work, teamwork and dedication. This is a great accomplishment,” said Jhaid Westbrook.
Westbrook endured a season playing for her dad.
She said, “We had rough times. There was a game that he kicked me off the bench. It is what it is.”
The River Springs Gators were led by Maddie Jorezak, Ashley Annucci and Brea Kamm, who each had four points apiece while Zoe Hines added two points.
It’s been a wild ride for Campbell. The previous night they beat Creekside Middle in Port Orange in a tie breaker to get to the title game.
“That was a dogfight. I’ve been coaching for 17 years. That is the hardest fought game I ever seen,” stated Coach Westbrook.
Harrell added, “That was a hard game. It was a tough game and it was very emotional.”
The Lady Spartans were breezing through the season and unbeaten until about a week ago when they lost their first game to Creekside.
Coach Westbrook said, “I think our lost to Creekside a few weeks ago woke us up and propelled us to the championship. I learned that sometimes you have to lose to learn how to win.”
Fast and furious
In the boys’ game, Western Division champion Southwestern of DeLand (12-1) upset Eastern Division champ Campbell (11-2) by a score of 49-39 in a fast and physical contest.
“It meant a lot. I have been up under Coach (David) Howard’s wing a lot. He has taught me a lot. I finally beat him in a game. Howard has taught me a lot. I was an assistant with him last year at Campbell and for a few years,” responded Duwayne Pelham, Southwestern’s head coach.
These two teams also played for the County Championship last season.
The Spartans entered the contest as the two-time defending champion and had won three titles in seven season under Howard.
The Cougars pounded the Spartans on the boards and kept them out of the paint.
“That was our strategy to keep them out the paint. We knew that Shelton Willis was going to score, but we wanted to make someone else beat us, which almost happened,” said Pelham.
Focused on victory
Campbell also didn’t take care of the basketball in this contest.
The backcourt duo of AuSean Owens (18 points) and Corey Williams (12 points) paced the Tigers.
“It feels great! We thought about nothing else but getting here and doing our best and doing what we had to do,” responded Williams.
Owens echoed, “We worked so hard during the season. We came back after last year. Many people told us that we wouldn’t do it.”
Jalen Willis led the Spartans with 17 points. DeJhonte McDaniels added nine points and LaRon Davis eight for Campbell. Ethan Burgess had six points for Southwestern.