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Local girls' basketball team heads to national tournament

By By Mitch Freeman Madison County Record
The Southern Starz Girls' Basketball team has earned a shot at a national amateur basketball league title for 11-year-old girls.
According to Coach Doug Bush, the Starz will travel to Kenner, La., at the end of June to play in the AAU National Tournament. There will be 77 teams from across the U.S. competing for the national championship title. The tournament begins June 28 and ends July 4.
Willie Harris of Madison helps Bush coach the team. Bush gives Harris considerable credit for the Starz' success.
Ten girls from Madison and around the county make up the team. They are: Jala Harris, Discovery Middle School; Kylie Cook, New Market Middle School; Lindsay Dunlap, Whitesburg Middle School; Kellie Cook, New Market Middle School; Christina Collins, Liberty Middle School, Katie Lampela, Challenger Middle School; Courtney Ragin, Liberty Middle School; Megan Rudolph, Riverton Middle School; Kristin Bush, Hampton Cove Middle School; and Jessica Gistarb, Liberty Middle School. Keila Hamlin of Hartselle was invited to play on the team for the national tournament.
The Starz starting five are Harris, the Cook twins, Rudolph and Bush.
Bush has been coaching girls' amateur basketball for four years.
Bush said he often plays his team against teams of 12-year-olds and his 11-year-olds usually do well. The Starz record is 23-6 and against 12-year-olds and 11-5 against other 11-year-olds, losing to only two different teams.
When the Starz compete against 11-year-olds, Bush said his team typically wins by an average of 15-20 points. The Starz average 50-55 points per game and their overall record is 34-11 since the season began on March 1.
All of the girls on the Starz team were sixth graders this past school year. Four players who play post average 5 feet, 6 inches in height. His guards stand 5 feet, 1-2 inches tall. According to Bush, half of the girls on the team are capable of scoring 15-20 points per game.
Bush said their inside and outside game is very balanced and the girls don't care who scores the points.
To get to the national tournament, the Starz advanced through the sub-state tournament held in Cullman the first weekend of May. The Starz defeated the Athens/Elkmont Red Storm 50-35 to clinch the state championship title. The state tournament was played the last weekend of May in Birmingham.
According to Bush, the national tournament will consist of about 20 pools, each having up to four teams. Three games will be among the teams in each pool to determine the best two teams. The two best teams from each pool will advance to the "gold" winners bracket. Losing teams from each pool will play consolation games.
The league the Starz play in is not affiliated with any school or church and is sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union. The players pay a fee to participate, but Bush said they sometimes award a scholarship to players that need help. He said they conduct fundraisers to pay for the purchase of uniforms and for support of the team.
The team's home court is at the Optimist Recreational Center in Huntsville where they practice at least twice a week.
The Starz organization gladly accepts donations. If interested in helping the Starz, contact Doug Bush at (256) 508-7076 or via email at jdbushman@aol.com.

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