NEAAU THUNDER 6TH-GRADERS WIN STATE GIRLS’ HOOP TITLE

Members of the Northeast Lady Thunder sixth-grade state NEAAU girls basketball champs are front, from left: Gia Alverio, Jessie Lessard, Jaxy Marquez, Lindsey Emond, Melissa Iannuzzo, and Kylie Bouley, plus back, from left: coach Gerri Carney, coach Steve Lessard, Lexi Roma, Amanda Bishop, Otnesty Omoyemi, Nicole Teague, Jenna Frasier, Autumn Ceppi, Meghan Carney, and coach Jeff Marquez. Courtesy photo
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The Northeast Lady Thunder sixth-grade AAU girls basketball team was crowned 2011 New England Amateur Athletic Union (NEAAU) state basketball champions last weekend by trouncing the Springfield Lady Ballers, 48-22, in the title game.

Both teams entered the contest undefeated in pool and tournament play after winning their brackets against the best teams throughout the state. Thunder guard Jessie Lessard had an outstanding game as she made several great drives to the basket during this championship game.

The Lady Thunder started the state tournament with a convincing 35-16 win over the Elite, as guards Gia Alverio and Lexi Roma hit a number of outside shots.

A second-round matchup saw forwards Amanda Bishop and Jenna Frasier power the Thunder past the Mass Ducks, 34-17.

In a 65-9 blowout of the MABC Lady Bengals, key reserves Meghan Carney, Lindsey Emond, Melissa Iannuzzo, Kylie Bouley, and Jaxy Marquez — all fifth-graders — combined for 22 points.

In an exciting quarterfinal overtime victory, the defensive play of center Otnesty Omoyemi held the Sutton offense to four second-half points as the Thunder rallied to a 26-22 win after trailing by eight at the half.

Guard Nicole Teague and forward Autumn Ceppi led the Thunder to a 39-17 semifinal win over Mass Premier Six squad, a perennial powerhouse.

The Thunder’s two other teams made strong showings in the tourney as the fifth-graders finished third, losing in the semifinals 39-30 against eventual state champs Mass Premier Five. The eighth-grade girls lost a tough game by five points to the Mass Wildcats in the quarterfinals, but still placed eighth out of 24 teams.

“What a great weekend for the Thunder family!” exclaimed a beaming coach Jeff Marquez. “All our teams played great. Our sixth-grade team dominated most games to become state champs. We had an awesome comeback in the quarterfinal game and a domineering performance for the title. We played against giants in the championship game, but it didn’t matter because our hearts were bigger and our hunger for victory was greater,” added Marquez.

“I am so proud of both the fifth-grade and eighth-grade teams. They both played aggressive and represented the Thunder family well. I can’t thank my fellow coaches Steve Lessard, Jay Noel and Gerri Carney enough for all their time, hard work and dedication. Their commitment to our girls is second to none. I also want to wish our sixth-grade guard Hailey Noel a speedy recovery. She is in all our hearts and prayers.”