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Covington team named national champs
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After tearing through the Newton County Recreation Commission’s 9-10-year-old basketball league, the Covington Hoyas are now national champions.

Following the successful recreation season, the Hoyas entered Youth Basketball of America, an AAU league, to continue playing together and continue winning.

Coached by Damian Sims, the Hoyas won the Cobb County Shootout, the YBOA Georgia Championship and, last week, were crowned YBOA national champions in Orlando.

After arriving at the event late on July 7, the Hoyas were a little sluggish in their opening game at 8:30 a.m. on July 8, falling to the Ascension Heat, out of Louisiana, 30-27 in pool play. Covington then won its next two pool games, putting it in the elimination bracket.

Once in the tournament’s bracket stage, the Covington Hoyas topped the YBON Bobcats, 57-19, and the Royal Knights Basketball Club, 46-37, at Winter Haven High School to earn a spot in the championship game.

On the other side of the bracket were the South Georgia Kings, out of Savannah, who defeated the Ascension Heat in the opening round.

The Kings proved to be of little trouble to the Hoyas, who held another opponent under 20 points, winning the title game 35-18 at Kissimee Community College on Friday.

Earning individual accolades for Covington were Maxwell Calloway as tournament MVP, Notorian Jones and Shawn Smith as all-tournament honorees, and Marques Mitchell as the all-hustle award winner.

Defense was a strong suit for the Hoyas in the YBOA National Championship, as it has been all through their run beginning in the Newton County rec league.

“We are able to make a lot of adjustments to what the other team is doing, and most times we are able to come out and impose our will on other teams,” Sims said. “We do a lot of trapping, and play a lot of pressure defense, which leads to a lot of turnovers and a lot of layups on the other end.”

The Hoyas rely on speed from almost all of their eight players in applying pressure throughout the game on both sides of the court.

Also adding to the Hoyas’ success is the fact that the kids are comfortable playing together, and have developed chemistry beyond just playing basketball together. Consisting of all Newton County elementary students, the Hoyas are not only teammates and school mates but also play together on the Sims’ coached travel football league team. Some of the players have been on the same team since 4 years old.

This is the first year the team has moved past the NCRC and into regional and national play with the AAU. The transition has been made possible, not only by the players’ talent, but also by parents who have helped with the travel and the added cost of the YBOA.

“This is the best group of parents I have ever dealt with,” Sims said.

The Covington Hoyas will remain playing together, with some added players, in summer tournaments, a fall league in Henry County and back to the winter league with the NCRC, before returning to AAU ball.