By BRODY FELDMANN
For the third year in a row, Yukon’s Keziah Lofton helped her AAU basketball team to a national championship.
Lofton travels all over the United States to play with an Arkansas-based team — Arkansas Mavericks.
Two weeks ago, the destination was Ohio for the sixth-grade AAU National Tournament.
“It was fun. I was nervous at first. I’m always nervous at first until we start playing,” Lofton said.
Lofton and the Mavericks rolled through the bracket with no problem on their way to the championship game.
“They won it by beating every team by 20. So, getting to that last game it was a little bit of a shock,” Lofton’s mom, Kendra Allen, said.
The first night in Ohio, Lofton became ill but didn’t let the sickness stop her.
She played through the illness and had 13 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the first game en route to a 58-17 victory.
In Game Two, the Mavericks played a team from Tennessee and won 62-32 with Lofton finishing with 18 points on 3-for-3 from behind the three-point line.
Her coach didn’t let her play much in the second game due to the illness.
“It was from Ohio. I am allergic to Ohio,” Lofton said jokingly.
In the third game of pool play, Lofton finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds while the Mavericks went on to win 49-29.
In bracket play the Mavericks knocked off teams from California, Minnesota and Illinois on their way to the championship game.
In the semifinals the Mavericks handled the IL-Xcitement 50-30 in dominant fashion.
In the finals, waiting for the Mavericks, were the All Ohio Blaze Onyx. That is the same team the Mavericks beat last summer in the semifinals on their way to their second national title.
The championship game went to double overtime before the Mavericks found a way late to seal the deal.
“I’m just glad we won this one, especially because it was such a hard game,” Lofton said.
Lofton played most of the game in foul trouble after earning four early fouls.
“I got in foul trouble at the beginning of the game. So, I had to keep letting them score on me because I played back on defense. The second overtime was hard on me because I couldn’t let them score at all. So, even if I got a foul, I would just foul out. But they didn’t call a foul on me. I did foul them, but they didn’t call it,” Lofton said. “I was lucky.”
But when her team needed her the most with a two-point lead, Lofton stepped to the free-throw line and connected on two free throws to give her team a four-point lead with just under 10 seconds remaining.
“I knew I had to make them, especially because I knew my dad would get mad if I didn’t make them,” Lofton said.
For a 12-year old who states she was nervous most of the weekend, her play on the court did not show it.
Once the tournament was over and the sixth-grade Mavericks had a day to celebrate at a local water park, the team loaded up and traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete in a 10th-grade tournament.
The Mavericks didn’t have the success that they are used to and that Lofton expects when she steps on the court, but the trip was a solid learning experience.
“I didn’t expect to win a lot of games really because I knew we were just there to get better. But it was way harder. I couldn’t get to my spots as easy as I could against teams in my grade,” Lofton said. “I learned that you can’t pass over the defense when they are longer than you.”
The whole trip wasn’t a business trip for Lofton and her
They got to spend time with family members they hadn’t seen in many years as well as watch a movie in downtown Louisville as well as stop at Wild Animal Adventure in Missouri on their way home.
“We did a lot of stuff. It was a lot of fun,” Lofton said.
The Mavericks will have another national tournament when MAYB comes to Oklahoma City in a few weeks.
Other than MAYB, Lofton plans on swimming and enjoying the last month of summer before she competes in her first year of volleyball.