A year after winning an AAU Division 2 championship as a 15U team, the Manatee Basketball Club Elite pushed itself to the top tier this season and netted a top-10 finish at the 16U AAU National Division 1 tournament in Louisville, Ky.
Fifty-six teams were entered in this year's tournament and with a 10th-place finish, MBC Elite was the top Florida team. The Boston Amateur Basketball Club, better known as BABC, won the championship.
"Our team's kind of been building up," head coach Steve Hester said. "The top eight teams in D2 are essentially D1."
MBC, which was founded five years ago, almost exclusively includes players from the Braden River and Lakewood Ranch High varsity teams, although it also recruited a handful of post players from St. Petersburg to bulk up on the front line. MBC doesn't necessarily feature the standout, Division I-bound superstars some other D1 AAU teams have, but MBC Elite got by on defense.
Playing in front of hundreds of coaches, including Indiana head coach Tom Crean and Purdue head coach Matt Painter, MBC held opponents to 44 points per game en route to a 5-2 record with both losses coming by one point.
MBC Elite, which won the D1 Disney Memorial Day Classic, is off until the fall after finishing the season with a 50-8 record. MBC plans to compete at the D1 level in 2016, although its scheduling will likely have to change. Instead of playing top-tier teams from far-flung cities around Florida and the Southeast, MBC Elite honed its game against 11th- and 12th-grade teams. Many of those teams will be gone, and MBC's travel budget will increase to allow travel down to Miami or out to Orlando and Jacksonville.
Twisters win World Series
The Manatee Twisters 02 cranked out 60 runs across seven games for an undefeated run to the Class B Eastern World Series title in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Manatee Twisters, who began in softball as recreation league players at Palma Sola Park, got their toughest test in the championship game against North Carolina's Lady Lightning. The Twisters eked out a 1-0 win after seven shutout innings by Angelina Nyland made Manatee's manufactured run stand up.
In the fourth, Ashia Dunwoody singled and stole second before a passed ball moved her all the way over to third. Brooke Rypiel dropped down a squeeze bunt and Dunwoody dove home for the game-winning run. Rypiel batted .454 with five RBIs during the tournament. Nyland hit a jam in the seventh when she loaded the bases after three straight singles, but the final batter grounded into a fielder's choice to second baseman Katie Welling.
Ranch run ends at state
The Lakewood Ranch All-Stars never recovered from their opening-game loss to the Sarasota American All-Stars in the Florida state Majors Division tournament at Canopy Oaks Community Park and finished 1-2 record in pool play.
Lakewood Ranch edged the Dr. Phillips All-Stars 10-9 in Tallahassee before suffering a 10-9 loss to the Coral Springs All-Stars in its final game of the season. Coral Springs wound up winning the pool before losing to the Keystone All-Stars in the state championship.
Ranch's exit in the state tournament leaves Manatee County without a state champion since the Braden River All-Stars in 2002.
David Wilson, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter @DBWilson2.