Express finishes 3rd in national tourney

Published 11:48 pm Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Express lived up to its name.

The Tri-State Express 14-and-under AAU basketball team rolled through its competition throughout the summer and finished third in the national tournment.

Among the team’s accomplishments were an impressive 33-4 regular season record and they won the United States Basketball Association West Virginia state tournament championship.

The team was comprised of players from Ironton and the West Virginia towns of Huntington, Crum and Kermit.

Ironton members included Zac Carter, Joe Bowling, Dion Brown, Trevor White and Trey Fletcher. James Hopkins was the head coach and Joe Fletcher was an assistant.

The Express won NAYS tournaments in Charleston (W.Va.) and Parkersburg (W.Va.). They were third in the Bearcat Classic in Cincinnati.

The West Virginia USBA title earned thema berth in the USBA National Tournament July 7-11 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

On the first day of pool play, the Express beat the Charlotte Storm Gold 66-25. On Wednesday, the Express stunned Team Carolina from Charlotte and coached by Michael Jordan’s brother Larry, 57-54.

The Express beat the Capital City Bulls 75-68 on Thursday to earn the top seed in their pool and the five seed overall entering bracket play.

In Friday’s first game, the Express downed the Charlotte Mad Dawgs 72-34. They came back to edge Team Carolina again, 55-53 on a last-second shot.

Later that night, the Express stopped the North Carolina Force 57-49 to reach the semifinals on Saturday.

Controversy racked the Express in their first game Saturday against the top-seeded Fayetteville Stars. After falling behind early, the Express tied the game on a last-second shot to force overtime.

Down by three with 19 seconds left, the Express appeared to have hit a game-tying three-pointer only to have the backcourt referee overrule the frontcourt official who had signaled the trifecta was good.

Instead of a second overtime, the Express had lost to the eventual national champions and had to settle for a third-place finish.

Coaches Hopkins and Fletcher expressed thanks to the area businesses and individuals who donated to the Tri-State Express Club organization and helped with the team’s success.

The program was developed to help advance basketball instruction, fundamentals and team-play concept.