We are the Champions: Malvern Cubs capture district tournament championship

The Malvern Cubs junior high boys basketball team won the 2019 Jr. High District Tournament on Thursday, February 7, 2019 after defeating Bauxite 41-34 in the championship game hosted at Arkadelphia High School Gymnasium. The Cubs are under the direction of Malvern head junior high boys basketball coach Kendrick Smith and assistant coach Nick Brumfield. Photo by Gerren Smith(5) Carter Martin and (32) Laqwon Luton for Malvern double-team in the lane defensively to make the deflection for a block on Bauxite going for the shot during the junior high boys district tourney championship game Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Arkadelphia. Photo by Gerren Smith(1) Elijah Mitchell for Malvern squares up with determination to make move against the Bauxite defense during the junior high boys district tournament championship game Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Arkadelphia. Photo by Gerren SmithThe Malvern Cubs embrace each other with excitement and celebration after defeating Bauxite 41-34 in the junior high boys district tournament championship game Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Arkadelphia. Photo by Gerren Smith
By: 
Gerren Smith
Staff Writer

It was a dream season for the Malvern Cubs junior high basketball team as they captured the 2018-19 7-4A district tournament title by defeating the Bauxite Crushers 41-34 on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in the boys championship game hosted at Arkadelphia High School Gymnasium. The hometown fans of Malvern were well represented in Arkadelphia wearing plenty of orange and black Leopard attire to support the Cubs in the finals to witness their team capture hardware championship title once again.

The Cubs had to fight through a little adversity in the finals after trailing Bauxite 21-20 at halftime for a one-point deficit going into the locker room. Malvern rose to the occasion for productive play in the second half with pressure defense from their full-court press to cause key turnovers and capitalizing to score in transition for impressive execution.

The Cubs outscored the Crushers 21-13 in the second half, which led to Malvern taking a 27-25 lead at the end of the third quarter. Malvern posted in double-digits in the fourth to account for 14 points scored. Malvern's defense propelled effectively against Bauxite, who was held to only four points scored in the third quarter and nine points in the fourth.

The overall play by the Cubs resulted to them claiming the ultimate prize to be crown the district tournament champions to finish the season 15-9 overall as the No. 3 seed in tourney competition. The Cubs ended the season winning their last five games for a five-game winning streak. The Cubs now claim the 7-4A district titles in football and basketball for the 2018-19 seasons in the Malvern junior high boys athletic program.

Malvern head junior high boys basketball coach Kendrick Smith with assistant coach Nick Brumfield were proud of how hard their team performed the entire season. Coach Smith was pleased by the production the Cubs have played in their previous games entering into the district tournament. The Cubs brought an energized and loose play to the hardwood during their tournament run and Smith felt their focus was key to execute effectively. Coach Smith, stated it's been a fun season and this group of guys are very talented and special.

The 2018-19 Malvern Cubs Jr. High District Tournament Champions: D.J. Culp, Elijah Mitchell, Marquez Johnson, Kaylon Brown, Jacob Lock, Carter Martin, Jabri Artis, Cameron Hendrix, John Barnes, Tayshawn Traylor, Cedric Simmons, Kaleb Bright, C.J. Williams, Laqwon Luton, Jett Jones and Isaiah Simmons.

7-4A Boys District Tournament Championship Game
Malvern Cubs 41, Bauxite 34
In first quarter action the Cubs jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead by Mitchell making a key steal in the open court and scoring a lay-up at the 4:36 mark (2-0). Then, Johnson completed a three-point play by being fouled while scoring the basket on the continuation. Johnson's made free-throw at the 3:43 mark (5-0) had the Cubs in good position early, but the Crushers finally got on the board by connecting a pair of free-throws to trail Malvern, 5-2 at the 3:38 mark. Culp posted Malvern's final basket of the period for a five-point advantage, 7-2 with two minutes left to play. Bauxite chopped their way back by scoring the final four points of the period to trail Malvern 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second, the Cubs and the Crushers displayed a competitive back and forth scoring battle with five lead changes and tied twice. Mitchell secured a steal to spark for the lay-up with big man Luton coming up with a strong rebound for a put back basket for Malvern. Johnson, Culp and other big man Traylor scored from the post area and Lock drained a huge trifecta (three-pointer) to spark Malvern's second period scoring. The Crushers outscored Malvern 15-13 in the second quarter with Bauxite holding onto the slim one-point lead at the break.

In the third, the Cubs built momentum to regain control. Luton scored the first basket of the third to give Malvern the 22-21 lead at the 5:26 mark. Johnson came up big defensively with a steal and coasted toward the lane to score off balance, but was fouled and hit 1 of 2 shots at the line to give the Cubs a 23-21 lead. Following this transition, Martin and Traylor scored a key basket apiece in the paint area which gave the Cubs some breathing room to lead Bauxite 27-21 at the 1:24 mark. The Crushers scored two baskets in the final minute of the quarter to cut Malvern's deficit to a two-point edge 27-25 after three periods of action going into the fourth quarter.

In the final period, the Cubs held onto their lead with key baskets from the field by Johnson, Luton, Brown and Mitchell. Under a minute with 42 seconds left to play, the Cubs led 37-34 which forced Bauxite to foul. Brown and Martin stepped up at the foul line to connect on both free-throw attempts going perfect 2-for-2 apiece to seal the deal for the Cubs to prevail for the seven-point victory.

For the game, Johnson led the Cubs scoring department with 10 points for double-figures. Mitchell and Luton both scored six points apiece. The trio of Culp, Brown and Martin each posted four points apiece and Lock finished with three points for Malvern's only trey from behind the arc of the game.

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