West Virginia Thunder repeats in the 8th Grade Division by edging All Ohio Xpress 2023
By Bob Corwin
In part 1 (Elite), part 2 (10th grade) and part 3 (9th grade) other divisions of the Midwest Showdown (May 26-28 in Cincinnati, Ohio area) were discussed. Here the 8th Grade Division will come under review in similar fashion.
A lot of youngster played up
With many teams playing up seeking more mature competition, an opportunity developed for some teams comprised of 7th graders (the 2023’s) to step into the spotlight. Granted skills were not as sophisticated as in older divisions, yet the effort and intensity were still there in the latter stages of this bracket.
Picking up the action in the 8th Grade Division final…
West Virginia Thunder 2022 Buchanan 56-52 All Ohio Xpress 2023
Even though it was a different group of players from last year, a team from the West Virginia Thunder program triumphed in this division again. However, in some ways there was no loser in this game. The gap between similarly talented 7th and 8th grades teams is 15 to 20 points due to the normal differences in physical development. Thus, for a group one grade younger to hang so close should be taken as a positive result in spite of what the scoreboard says.
The game went as might be expected with the Thunder having an edge in physical maturity. The Xpress (part of the host club) had an edge in quickness and used it to their advantage for much of the game. West Virginia led 16-12 at the quarter and 31-22 at half. The Thunder’s Tya Flowers, eventual MVP, was dominating the paint scoring 10 points in the half. No Xpress player had more than six points.
In the third quarter the Xpress turned up the full court pressure. Thunder turnovers resulted Xpress points with West Virginia lead just one (40-39) after three stanzas. The fourth quarter saw multiple turnovers on both sides perhaps due to fatigue (second game of morning for both sides) with the Thunder maintaining a lead of three to six points much of the time. West Virginia Thunder point guard (and all-tournament selection) Dionna Gray moved to the fore providing some stability in parts of a hectic fourth quarter.
For the game Division and Final Game MVP Tya Flowers (with continued maturation likely future Division 1 recruit) led West Virginia with 16 points but also provided needed muscle in the lower paint being the most physically mature player in the game. Dionna Gray added 9 points for the Thunder. For the Xpress, its All-tournament performers Zyaira Miller led with 18 points (mostly via drives to the rim) and Raeven Raye-Redmond posted nine (including a couple of threes) points.
Special thanks to Harry Elifson who worked tirelessly with me throughout the weekend to select the all-tournament teams.
Players are listed alphabetically with listed height, position, graduation year, and club team. Home town is in parenthesis.
2018 Midwest Showdown
8th Grade Division
Jayda Brown, 5-7, point guard, 2023, FBC Bouncenation 2023 (Morrow, Georgia)
Tya Flowers, 5-11, power forward, 2022, WV Thunder 2022 Buchanan (Winchester, Kentucky) MVP
Dionna Gray, 5-3, point guard, 2022, WV Thunder 2022 Buchanan (Barboursville, West Virginia)
Kierstyn Liming, 5-8, guard, 2022, Capital City Stars-2022 (Orient, Ohio)
Aislin Malcolm, 5-10, guard, 2022, WPA Bruins 2022 Black (Carnegie, Pennsylvania)
Zyaira Miller, 5-5, shooting guard, 2023, All Ohio Xpress 2023 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Raeven Raye-Redmond, 5-7, shooting guard, 2023, All Ohio Xpress 2023 (Trotwood, Ohio)
Bella Ward, 5-10, guard/forward, 2022, All Ohio Thornton (Blacklick, Ohio)
Lili Wilken, 5-6, shooting guard, 2022, B Wright 2022 Gold (Nolensville, Tennessee)
Sole Williams, 5-7, point guard, 2023, Cincy Finest – 8th Grade (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Kendall Wilson, 5-8, shooting guard, 2022, Phenom 2022 (Springdale, Ohio)