Twisters tourney ups level of success

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR STAFF
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   Pre-set goals for the recent Grindstaff Automotive Group Fourth Annual Twisters basketball tournament were to raise money for the Elizabethton city schools girls' program and to give local basketball fans a multitude of great games. On both fronts the 2004 tournament was an overwhelming success.
   "This was the best result yet, very successful," said tournament co-organizer David Bush. "A lot of people from Greeneville came up to watch their teams play and the younger teams really drew a crowd.
   "I had people tell me for the nine-year old girls championship game, it was the loudest crowd ever at T.A. Dugger."
   Large crowds for the tournament held at four gyms within the city of Elizabethton proved to be good news for different Elizabethton programs.
   "The results mean we can support the Elizabethton High School girls team at camp at least as much as we did last year," said Bush. "The money raised goes to summer camps and to fund entry fees for our younger teams when they play in summer leagues.
   "We have to spend on Twisters jerseys too. We have six teams from fourth graders to high school. We purchased 40 new Twister jerseys, which are equivilant to practice jerseys."
   Those were some of the rewards from the tournament, but the action on the court was what had most people stirred. Several Carter County teams advanced to championship games.
   The girls high school team featured the Betsy Town Twisters coached by former EHS standout Lori Wilson. They edged Blount County-based Tennessee Thunder in the title game 32-31 as Michaela Pietrowski's two free throws with 10 seconds left clinched the contest.
   Pietrowski paced the Twisters in scoring with 14 points Cameron Crapps added eight.
   The Thunder did achieve number one status in the 15 and under class, where they won the championship game 47-31 over a neighboring Maryville squad.
   The 14 and under class saw the Shooting Stars led by Holly Nickles with 13 points, take a 35-25 decision over a Twister team coached by ex-Unaka star Aaron Dugger.
   The Shooting Stars also won the 13 and under division 27-22 over Maryville as Mariah Pietrowski scored six second half points.
   South Greene topped the 12 and under bracket beating Jonesville, Va. 26-18 in the finals. It was a rematch of an earlier game in the tournament, which Jonesville won by two points.
   The Junior Rebels also took the trophy in the 11 and under division with an easy 25-7 championship win over the Twisters. The most electricity mave have come in the girls 9 and under championship game, which saw the Johnson City version of the Lady Vols squeak by Greeneville 10-9.
   The boys' side of the Twisters tournament also provided thrills with the high school championship going to the Chattanooga Clippers. A 54-40 win over Buchanan County, Va. in the finals gave the team made up of players from powerhouse programs Brainerd and Red Bank the overall win.
   A group of players from those schools lost 60-52 in an exhibition game against players from Science Hill. The contest while not an official part of the tournament highlighted some of the great athleticism found in gyms across the Volunteer State.
   The 15 and under class saw the Knoxville Area Youth Association defeat the Amateur Youth Sports team coached by Pappy Crowe by a final score of 59-42.
   The hometown Elizabethton Force comprised of T.A. Dugger's eighth graders and coached by David Martin won a 31-28 final over the Lee County, Va. Players in the 14 and under division.
   The Force survived a scare in the semifinals beating the Knoxville Area Youth team 30-29. Bobby James starred for Elizabethton 14's in both games, putting forth double-digit scoring efforts.
   The final boys bracket featured the 12 and under class with Greeneville winning 38-18 over the Carter County Rebels. Making it to the finals was quite a feat for the Rebel team , who played with a host of younger ball players.
   Despite a schedule of 70 games in a three-day span, no serious injuries were suffered throughout the tournament.
   The overall success of the tournament came as a direct result of hard work from several people involved with the Twisters.
   "It's a big fund raiser," said Bush. "It couldn't be accomplished without 25 people devoting long hours to it. Use coach (Mike) Wilson as an example. He was at the high school 4 p.m. Friday to midnight. He stayed there all day Saturday and was there Sunday after church until after the first half of the Lady Vols' game. We couldn't do it without their support and the support of the school system."