The Fort Benning Ballers are one game shy from being on top in the 13- and 14-year-old Columbus youth basketball division. The Ballers kept their second-place spot after defeating Shirley Winston 52-35 Saturday at Shirley Winston Recreation Center.
A minute into the game, Baller Ben Gardner put Fort Benning on the board, scoring a basket and free throw to lead 3-0. By the end of the first quarter, the Ballers’ defense led Shirley Winston to 7-4.
The Ballers had their biggest scoring period of the game in the second quarter, scoring on 17 points with baskets by Gardner, Nick Hunter, Lemont Williams, Karl Ivey II, D.J. Harrell and B.J. Knight. The Ballers led 24-15 at the half.
With three minutes remaining in the third period, the Ballers’ defense shut down Shirley Winston’s offense to maintain a 31-15 lead.The Ballers increased their lead to 45-28 and added seven more points late in the game to close out the game with a 52-35 win.
“The kids played excellent,” said Ballers coach Karl Ivey. “We had a tough loss last week against 29th Street, so we practiced, focused on strong defense, and it worked to our advantage.”
The top team in the division, 29th Street, is still undefeated. The Ballers lost 53-52 against 29th Street Jan. 30.
“In our game against 29th Street, we came out sluggish, but in this game we came out more aggressive,” said Knight, a guard with the Ballers.
The Ballers are 3-1.
Next up for the Ballers is Pop Austin at 5 p.m. Saturday while Shirley Winston will take on 29th Street at 4 p.m.
Both games are at Frank Chester Recreation Center. Scoring: Ballers: Gardner (9), Hunter (9), Knight (8), Hackney (6), Harrell (5), Williams (4), Ivey II (3), Stitzel (3), Green (2), Johnson (2), Franklin (1).Shirley Winston: Byrd (21), Williams (8), Davis (4), Jackson (2).