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Next Level caps busy month with tournament victories

Three Next Level basketball teams performed well in tournaments against some great opponents that traveled from across the state and country.

Next Level’s 17-and-under girls team went 1-2 at the Foreverland Tournament June 18-19, while the 15-and-under team finished third in its division at the same event with a 2-1 record.

The 17-and-under team defeated Nike Pro Skills Roberts 55-32 but lost to Texas Lone Star Gold Dallas 46-42 and to Texas Elite Premier, the host, 46-37.

The team, coached by Malcolm Canada, featured MaeSyn Gay, Grace Gates and Zaria Solis of Burnet; Alyssa Berkman, Lexi Edwards, Emma Koziel and Tea Rodriguez of Marble Falls; and Ava (Izzy) Fernandez of San Antonio Churchill.

“We’re creating a competitive environment,” Canada said. “It’s strictly to get the culture of basketball to change in this area, to make it more competitive. It was a great experience for our kids.”

While the physicality of the sport will help the athletes, Canada added Next Level also is trying to help the players develop their mentality and self-confidence to walk into gyms anywhere and believe they can be successful.

“It’s good for the kids to expose them to that,” he said. “You’re seeing these girls do things they’re not doing consistently. We’re playing at a pace that they have to have another gear to get to. I was highly impressed by that stuff and playing at that pace and keeping up.”

The 15-and-under squad defeated Lady Dream Elite of Houston 71-48 and Texas Elite Three Stripes 29-21 but lost to Courtside United 61-57.

Coach Chris Torres noted the team featured eighth- and ninth-graders including Sydney Lough, Aubrey Matthews, Cydney Robison and Sierra Shaffer of Burnet; Bethany Fry of Marble Falls; Keaton Owen and Kenedi Smart of Lampasas; and Fernandez, who split her time between both squads.

“Izzy came in when we really needed her,” Torres said. “We struggle with slow starts, it took us a minute to get going. We had to dig ourselves out of a hole. These girls did what our coaches asked. It helps us throughout the tournament.”

He commended Lough for her play at point guard.

“She was playing in a tough environment and handled it well,” he said. “It was fun to watch. I train her privately on the side. Some of the things we’re working on are carrying over into games.”

Torres also coached the Burnet Lady Dawgs at a state qualifying tournament June 16-17 where they finished 4-1 with wins against Byron Nelson 45-40, Godley 61-60, Granbury 56-40 and Salado.

July will be a busy month for Next Level. The 17-and-under team will play in the Sky Hook Tournament July 1-3 followed by the Battle of the Barrel July 10-12. The 15-and-under squad will play in the Run for the Roses July 5-8.

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