Despite several attempts in recent years, the Angels Basketball team overcame tremendous adversity during some very intense basketball games as they were crowned 2012 11th Grade Division I AAU National Champions in Orlando. Led by head coach Denis Aidoo and assistant coaches Alton Clivens, Rome Jr. and his younger sibling Norvell Rome, the team managed to battle through two crucial games where they trailed by double digits in the second half to remarkably come back and win.
After six straight wins in the tournament, Angels Basketball entered the championship game and had to face the Saratoga Sparks. The 2012 11th Grade Division I AAU National Championship Game, which was televised live on ESPN 3, was dominated by the post players Paije Hall (St. Thomas More High-Lafayette) and the unannounced MVP, Kaitlyn Pratt (McDonogh 35-New Orleans) of the Angels.
Pratt's size allowed her to shoot high percentage shots from the paint as she also dominated the boards, marvelously collecting a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in the championship game. Although the Saratoga Sparks produced a valiant effort, it wasn't enough as Angels Basketball won the championship game by the score of 53-46.
"We really believed we had a shot to win it all because everything was falling in place at the right time," said Coach Rome Jr. "We came into this tourney without our star point guard, Di'Mond Jackson (University High-Baton Rouge), and despite injuries, we rode the wave as our bench stepped up huge and played a major role."
In the first round, the teams participated in pool play. The teams were split into six groups of four teams each, with the top two advancing. Angels Basketball breezed through the first game with a 79-43 victory over Jacksonville Lady Tarheels.
However, their second game proved to be a rollercoaster ride. In the first half, Angles Basketball found themselves up by 10 points over Germantown Lady Panthers half, but after a twenty point swing, they trailed by 10 points in the second half.
The Angles cut the lead down to three with less than 30 seconds to go and forced Jacksonville into a turnover on the following possession. With just seconds remaining in the game, Coach Rome's team buried a three pointer to face overtime where they went on for the 55-52 victory.
In the third and final game of pool play, Angels Basketball would cruise on to yet another easy victory, this time defeating Lady Shottas by the score of 65-32. Their impressive 3-0 record in pool play earned them a first round bye as they advanced to the next round.
Angels Basketball won its next game 64-60 against a formidable opponent, N.M.B. Hoop Dreams Blue and eased its way into the final four after a 56-45 defeat over Illinois Wolverines Elite.
According to Coach Rome Jr., the semi-final game versus Ohio Lady Attack was the most challenging game throughout this AAU National Tournament in Orlando.
"Their ability to drive and dish it to the three-point line made it tough to stop them, especially when they hit almost all their shots," said Rome Jr. "We were down by 18 at one point, and our coaching staff made a key substitution when we put in Alexandra Seale (Ponchatoula High-Hammond) who is our lock down defender."
The Angels cut the deficit to 10 by halftime, and after a tough third quarter, they trailed by only seven points entering the fourth quarter.
Ohio Lady Attack could feel the lead slowly slipping away throughout the fourth quarter as the Angels applied heavy pressure on the defensive end. With three minutes remaining in the ball game, Angels Basketball's Kolbi Morgan (John Curtin High-River Ridge) buried a three-point shot as the shot clock expired to tie the game. The 18 point deficit which seemed insurmountable was overcome by the will to never give up as Angels Basketball defeated Ohio Lady Attack 49-45.
"I really feel like Angels Basketball was very special," said Rome Jr. "The team was on board and believed from the very beginning and had to overcome a lot of adversity throughout the tourney in order to win the championship."
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*Photo provided by Norbert Rome Jr.