Stella Dell and Ava Jones had a summer to remember.
The Westfield girls were part of an Indiana Girls Basketball club team that won the Fourth Grade Girls Basketball Division 1 Platinum AAU World Championship in Knoxville, Tenn., in late June. The team, called Newkirk after head coach Will Newkirk, followed that up with a tournament championship in the Roses Rising Stars Nationals tournament July 5-6 in Louisville. The team, which finished 33-1, suffered its only loss — by one point — July 16 in the Tennessee Miracle championship in Knoxville. Newark said the team that beat them created a super team by taking six girls from other teams that competed in the AAU World Championship.
“There should be an asterisk next to our 33-1 record because it’s absolute garbage to do that to somebody,” said Newkirk, a Plainfield resident. “The (Alabama) team had players from four different organizations.”
That aside, it was a memorable run.
Stella said the best experience was playing with her teammates and doing a bunch of fun things together.
“We knew what each of our strengths and weaknesses are,” Stella said. “So, we knew when, where and how we should pass the ball to each other. A lot of us played together when we were in third grade, but we added three people to the team for this year.”
Ava said the teammates are close and have learned to play well together. It also helps that they practiced every week against the top fifth-grade team from IGB.
“Our team referred to them as our big sisters and they beat our girls up pretty good every week in practice, but it has definitely made our team stronger,” said Derek Jones, Ava’s father. “Our coach, Will Newkirk, is as dedicated as they come. He pushes the girls hard but encourages them even harder. We often play in tournaments that are a grade up, or two, for our girls, or we’ve even entered the occasional boys tournament to really challenge the girls. It’s really developed some very competitive young ladies.”
Stella and Ava have known each other since second grade. They joined the IGB team in third grade.
“So, it was nice to know at least one person when we were joining a new AAU team,” Stella said.
Jones said the families all get along great and enjoy the out-of-town tournaments.
“Youth sports anymore can be so competitive,” Jones said. “It’s great to be part of a team where everyone truly supports each other, and the team (families included) are so unified.”
Newkirk said the girls played team defense and made the extra pass on offense.
“They bought in and completely trusted one another on offense and defense,” Newkirk said.
Newkirk said Stella and Ava are primarily defensive specialists.
“But neither one is afraid to put the ball in the basket,” he said. “Stella came out huge for us in the championship game at Tennessee Miracle, although we came up short.”