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All-county team completes inaugural season
Mia Hobbs
Mia Hobbs works her way to the rim against Prescott South during Thursday's game. The Lady Thunder lost 49-45.

Bitter rivals got a chance to become best friends during the last six weeks. The newly founded Warren County Thunder brought together the best of the best in the 7-8 grade elementary league, with hopes some experience now will pay dividends in the future.

“This is about a payoff that may be 2-3 years down the road,” said boys coach Dustin Curtis. “I really enjoyed the challenge and being part of this team. I think it’s a great thing for local basketball.”

This is the first year teams were selected from members of the 7-8 grade elementary leagues. After leading Dibrell to a 17-0 season, Curtis took the reins of the boys team - one featuring many members of his undefeated Wildcats team. Rylan Moore, current Eastside girls 7-8 coach and former member of the Lady Pioneers, was in charge of the girls team.

Both coaches know the challenges of adapting their skills to the high school level after playing at county schools. They welcomed the chance to give select players a head start into acclimating to more competitive opponents.

“I wish they had this when I was in school,” said Moore, who played four years at WCHS after a great run at Eastside. “It’s important to get these players used to the type of talent they’re going to see moving forward.”

Curtis, a Dibrell Wildcat in his playing days, echoed Moore’s sentiments.

“This is a great experience for the kids. They’re competing in tight games, learning the pressure of big moments and getting an early start at blending in with future teammates,” said Curtis.

The teams faced off against area opponents, culminating with Thursday’s games at Charlie Dalton Gym against Prescott South. Warren County was swept in the contests. The Thunder also competed against White County and Cannon County, as well as playing in area tournaments, after forming in early December.

Highlighting the experience was the Thunder boys downing the WCMS Pioneers in the Masonic Lodge finals, a seminal moment in the heated local debate about the county’s talent pool.

While proud of the victory, Curtis believes the experience counted more than the win-loss records.
“I’m so proud of the players. We played our first game a day after our first practice and we were competitive every game,” said Curtis. “The kids had great attitudes, worked together and wanted to get better. That’s the key.”

The boys team featured  Jordan Sandlin, Aaron Ashburn, E.J. Orue, Nathan Elrod, Hagen Stewart, Matthew Young and Drathan Dixon (Dibrell), Tyler Dunn, Kaden Desmarais, Hunter Musgrove and Parker Yates (Morrison), Nathan Lemons and Blake Adams (Centertown) and Ethan Vandeever (Eastside).

The girls team included Jaden Smartt, Alyssa Mosley and Katy Mae Cantrell (Centertown), Lia Wright and Brienne Kelsey (Morrison), McKenzie Hillis and Mia Hobbs (Irving College), Shelby Smartt (Eastside) and Rudy DeArmond (Dibrell).