The N.Y.I.A. Eagles embarked on a 1,943 miles round trip, that’s a whopping 9 days on the road. Some might say that this was crazy, to travel and play all the way down from Up-State New York to South Carolina, but we can tell you its not, quite the opposite in fact.
BEFORE THE ROAD TRIPThe Eagles had been preparing for this trip since the start of the season, all the games before each played a part in tweaking and perfecting everyone’s skills, game & mindset. They had to keep their heads, play as a team and listen to Coach. There was a buzz around the Academy, everyone was getting themselves prepared mentally for what they were about to face. Some of the players had never been on a game road-trip like this before so this was about to be a new and exciting experience.ON THE ROADSaturday 23rd Feb, the first day of the trip saw an early drive down to Colora MD to play at West Notts Academy, against Rock Top Academy. There were a lot of standout performances this game. Anthony Taylor Jr. rebounded the ball very well, had many fast breaks & got up and down the court which really helped the Eagles open the game up. Speaking with Coach Kelso at the end of the game he had this to say:
“ New York International Academy are definitely ready to play (he said with a lot of confidence) we’ve been playing well the last 6, 7 games in fact we are 8-1 in the last 9 games so we are playing well as far as being prepared for tournament type play”.
For some of the players this is going to be a totally new experience so Coach Kelso said it was hard to say how they will perform but as far as practice & working in the gym, the players have picked it up, are very interested, have done well and are going into this tournament well prepared.After their first win on the road 108-83, the team set off back to the hotel for some necessary rest & recovery before heading to the next destination, Huntington WV.After a hard-grind game, N.Y.I.A. took out the nationally known Huntington Prep 92-80. Huntington Prep, known for having great NBA talent such as Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Myles Bridges (Hornets). The Eagles out rebounded a much taller Huntington team. The stand out players from the game were Jalen Kelso leading the team in scoring with 32 points, 5 assist, steals and 12 deflections. Nylek Cobb had 18 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assist, Anthony Taylor with 10 points and 12 rebounds and Jamal Hall had 9 points and 9 rebounds.The N.Y.I.A. Eagles Team gained confidence and momentum as they passed through each town, playing game after game. They were really starting to look like a strong contender to take the USA National Prep Championship title. Next stop on the trip list, Lincolnton NC to face Combine Academy.After travelling all day the Eagles were straight out the van and straight into play. The Eagles ran a lot, picked the game up, they played outstandingly. N.Y.I.A. beat Combine Academy by 30 points making this a 3 out of 3 wins on the road so far. It was not just one player, everyone on the team was playing well and that has helped the Eagles a lot in being able to jump ahead and gain the lead in games. Coach Kelso was very satisfied with the way the team’s been playing since hitting the road to South Carolina.This was the final preparation road game before the Eagles competed in USA National Prep Championship in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Coach Kelso had a positive outlook, this is what he had to say before the event:
“… We always go in expecting to win … I think that you do have to play teams and get prepared to play in a tournament … I think the fact that we are winning every game and gaining experience, we are growing as a team and were getting better, the kids are really working at it as far as practice is concerned training really hard and I expect us to play well in the tournament”.
Ultimately the N.Y.I.A. Eagles had the advantage, playing games since the 23rd made sure they were physically ready and mentally prepared. Players were warmed up, prepped, full of confidence and ready going to go in to the tournament and give it all they got.THE FIRST GAMENot an easy start for the Eagles as they face the 3x tournament champions, Southside Community College from Virginia. This team played quicker and faster than N.Y.I.A. and were pressing the Eagles but they could not get the ball. This is what Coach Kelso had to say:
“We’ve played a lot of very good teams coming down the stretch from Endicott and right now we have gotten better in areas of the game and today we showed that”.
The two teams matched in size Southside had the advantage of faster, quicker players but it didn’t help them, the quickness and press opened up the game for the Eagles with both teams playing really fast getting up and down the court. Coach Kelso was proud of his team’s performance and execution to take the win.THE SECOND GAMEThis game saw the N.Y.I.A. Eagles match up against Moravian Prep, with another win for New York International Academy. Coach Kelso’s thoughts turn quickly to the championship game, this is what he had to say:
“The competition has been very good, we’ve had high quality competition and a very tough game that we have to face tomorrow playing in the championship game it will be a lot tougher, we play Daytona (DME) and they have 6 division 1 signed athletes and a 6ft 10, 9, and 8 guy so it will be a very tough game foe us tomorrow … just because they are the favorite to win doesn’t mean they are going to win”.
THE FINALSA surprise to everyone but not to us. The N.Y.I.A. Eagles made it to the finals to face DME Academy. Everyone was a little nervous going in, they were bigger than us and had beat every other team they had played in the tournament. Here’s Coach Kelso’s thoughts going in:
“The game plan was to shut down the 6ft All-American point guard, we decided that he couldn’t bring the ball up against us which stopped them getting into their offense or into their big guys, they couldn’t not get past our guards we continued to steal the ball, we got ahead further & further our game plan worked because of our defensive effort particularly from our point guard Jalen Kelso who shut down their point guard …”
THE CHAMPIONSFrom the very start of the season the team improved and came into this tournament on a high. Grinning from ear to ear the Eagles could finally breath, relax & take in the win. The hard work had paid off. They were now the 2019 USA National Prep Champions. Coach Kelso took a moment before he gave his post-game interview summarizing that the organization of the program, the level of coaching and the effort from the players is what got everyone to this victorious moment. Can’t wait to compete again next year.