With Bradley Central High School point guard Jackie Pickel playing an integral role, Shelbyville (Tenn.) Sports Shop won the AAU Girls 15-Under National Basketball Championship on Thursday night.
Playing in Winston-Salem, N.C., Shelbyville used its three-point shooting ability in defeating the New York Gazelles, 75-71, at the Bishop McGuinness Complex.
Pickel, Kenzie Rich and Leah Stone combined to make eight three-pointers for Shelbyville.
"We finished ninth one year, fifth last year and two this year, so we have to come back," coach Cecil King Jr. of the Gazelles told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I think their fresh bodies in the game helped, but I also think our shooters, who have been shooting the whole tournament, didn't shoot today.
"But you have to give them credit. They have a good club and they can shoot threes. That really hurt us, and we couldn't get out on them, and it seemed like they made about 15 of them."
Coach Matt Insel of Shelbyville said he wasn't surprised his team won.
"We were in the toughest side of the bracket," Insel told the Winston-Salem Journal. "We told the kids that if we get through our bracket and get to the finals, we would have a good chance at winning it. They gutted it out and played hard.
"Three years ago, we didn't get out of pool play and we finished seventh last year. We added the point guard (Rich) and the big girl (Stewart) this year. We don't have the best individual kids but we have the best team."
Pickel averaged 14 points-per-game during the tournament. Shelbyville, made up of mostly Shelbyville Central High School players, swept through 11 games in claiming the championship that consisted of 105 teams from around the country. The 105 teams set an AAU record for number of teams in any age group in the history of the competition.
Pickel's highlights included making seven three-pointers in one game and six three-pointers in another.
(E-mail Stan Crawley at firstname.lastname@example.org)