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Basketball wizardry
Elly Bain 4.jpg
Elly Bain has been a driving force behind West Elementary's hot start. Bain scored nine points Monday to lead the Lady Wizards past Bobby Ray 15-12. - photo by Jeffery Simmons

The struggle was definitely real.

When the 5-6 grade elementary league decided to incorporate West Elementary, most knew the Wizards and Lady Wizards would be at a disadvantage. Without a sixth-grade class, the team would always be facing an uphill climb.

It’s been a long three years, but West Elementary seems to have found its groove. With Braydon Lewis leading the boys and Alli Mingle in charge of the girls, West has seen its teams rise near the top of the standings. The Wizards currently lead Division 2 with a 3-0 record, while the Lady Wizards are 2-1 – their lone loss coming to undefeated Irving College by two points.

It’s a far cry from previous years, when the teams went into the season just hoping to score. Scoring a single victory may have been too much to ask.

“Fundamentals and teamwork have always been our priority. This year is no different,” said Mingle, who was on the sideline Monday to lead her team to a win over Bobby Ray despite undergoing a procedure hours earlier. “We’re coming together as a team. Braydon has had the team the last two years and I took over this year.”

Mingle and Lewis, together off the court, have taken great pride in trying to grow the West Elementary program. The duo, both still shy of their 22nd birthdays, decided recently to expand their age group – something Mingle credits with the team’s success this season.

“Last year we let third-graders try out and that was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” said Mingle. “Most of the kids in our school have never played before. This gave us more time to work with them.”

One of the lone team sports at West, there has been plenty of time for the groups to improve. Both teams have been working out since July, prepping for a time where they could take the court and show their growth.

“I've put a lot of time in over these last three years and have seen a lot of young players grow,” said Lewis. “My goals are never about wins or losses, but instead to build strong, fundamentally sound basketball players. Don't get me wrong, we'll take wins along the way, but I'm extremely proud of the growth that the entire school has made.

"I'm excited to watch our program in the future."

The teams are also succeeding despite a lack of a home-court advantage. West Elementary plays all its home games at Bobby Ray, though it hasn’t seem to affected either team’s records.

Monday night, it may have even been a bonus. The West Elementary teams swept Bobby Ray in a road matchup, further cementing their place atop the district standings.

Leave it to the Wizards to have a magical season.