A couple of weekends ago, the Maryland Lady Hoopmasters became the first Carroll County sports organization to ever host an AAU basketball tournament.
Liberty High School was chosen as the site for this first annual "Caviness Classic" tournament, held April 28-29, and named for Tom "TC" Caviness, who founded the Hoopmasters in 2001.
The turnout was good. In fact, the tournament was sold out. The field featured 20 girls AAU basketball teams from around Maryland plus one from Gettysburg, along with roughly 200 girls ranging from the fifth to 11th grade.
Maryland Lady Hoopmasters director LaTonya Hardy says her group wants want to make this an annual event.
Maryland Hoopmasters is one of several AAU basketball programs in the county. The Westminster and Eldersburg-based Hoopmasters organization fields teams for both girls and boys. Since its founding, over 1,900 boys and girls have passed through the program with many going on to high school basketball. Some 185 have moved on to college programs ranging from community college to Division I.
Carroll County teams and players had a big impact of this first Caviness tournament's outcomes. Local teams reached the championship game in four of the tourney's five grade-based divisions, winning two of them.
Maryland Hoopmasters, coached by Steph McCarthy, won the sixth-grade division, and the Westminster-based Central Maryland Attitude, coached by LeLand Hughes was the sixth/seventh grade bracket champ.
Another Hoopmasters squad, coached by Hardy, was second to the Bethesda-Washington D.C. area-based PV Thunder. The Carroll County Cougars, coached by Thomas Thompson, were second to Gettysburg-based Chillies in the seventh/eighth grade bracket.
The tournament's organizers also presented an award to the player in each championship game who worked hardest and showed the most compassion. It is called the Bruce Woodyard All-Star Award to honor Woodyard, a longtime volunteer in Westminster youth basketball circles. Girls from Carroll County or playing on Carroll AAU teams won four of the five awards.
The winners were Brielle Baughman, who plays with the Central Md. Attitude. Harper Eudy (Carroll County Cougars), Josie Bauerlein (Md. Lady Hoopmasters), and Takiah Cheathon (Hoopmasters).
She added that AAU tournaments also attract college coaches and scouts, mostly from Division II and III schools. Because it does this, it also offers opportunities for local players to be seen and recruited by these college representatives.
Hardy said the Caviness tournament did not attract a lot of college recruiters. However, she wants to make sure that word of the annual tournament spreads so it becomes a stop for college scouts and coaches in the future.
But while this was not a college showcase tournament, last weekend's field was nevertheless very competitive, Hardy said.
The girls on Hughes' Attitude team were all sixth graders, and they played up in a division with both sixth and seventh grade players.
Hughes said this team has won AAU tournament championships in the past but hadn't yet won a title this season. His team played each of the other three teams in their grade 6/7 bracket in a round robin, and the two best records played for the championship.
His girls won two of the three round robin games. In the one loss, he was missing shooting guard Baughman. But Baughman, who was his team's leading scorer in two games, did make it back in time for the championship.
That game was against the Laurel-based Spartans.
"We led most of the game but we lost the lead midway in the fourth quarter. We scored the final six points of the game to beat them by three points," Hughes said.
Hardy said she feels the tourney was a success. She believes that it will attract more teams in the future and may have to expand into other facilities because of the need for additional space.