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DMS 8th graders finish strong

Jesse Bell walked around and fist bumped each of the players on his eighth grade boys team Monday night. The squad had just won its last game of the season, moving 17-2 while downing Carver 30-23.

It was just another game for most in attendance. But, after 13 years of coaching at Demopolis High School, Bell understands the value of finishing strong.

His team did that with a 16-11 third quarter run that erased a halftime deficit. Despite offensive struggles early, the DMS eighth grade group jumped into its press defense in the second half and overwhelmed Carver for the game’s final two quarters.

The final 24 minutes of the season served as a microcosm of the Tigers’ 2011-2012 campaign. Occasional offensive inconsistencies were accounted for by a team that committed itself wholeheartedly on the defensive end.

“They play great defense,” Bell said of the group. “Our offense came from a whole lot of turnovers on defense.”

In the 14 players that made his first 8th grade team, Bell found a collection of young men who despised losing and tolerated nothing but effort.

“You had the three captains, they would tell me who was playing around and say ‘Coach, we don’t need him. He’s not going to help us win.’ Those are the kind of kids you want on your team,” Bell said. “They really, really hate losing.”

While Bell was pleased with the effort his players gave him and the 17-2 record, he did not find either entirely surprising.

“They are way ahead, just the terminology of basketball,” Bell said. “When I would teach them something new, they didn’t look confused at all.”

Bell gives all the credit for the successful campaign to his players. Still, he did his share to help the process by adjusting to the new challenge after dropping from high school ball.

“You’ve got to change your philosophy a little bit when you drop from high school to middle school,” Bell said. “But you’ve still got to push them for the next level.”

That understanding and his experience made Bell an ideal candidate to assume the vacant head coaching duties at DMS. Fortunately for Bell and all those involved with the 2011-2012 DMS basketball season, principal Chris Tangle recognized that as well.

“I’d like to compliment Mr. Tangle. He called me at home and asked would I help with the coaching duties at the middle school,” Bell said. “I really appreciated that. I didn’t want to be out of coaching.”

As Bell readies to give his attention fully to his seventh grade players, he wishes the eighth grade group well on its rise through the Demopolis City School system and readily admits that great things could be in the team’s future.

“I hope it carries over to the high school,” Bell said. “I want this group to stay together. And they respect each other.”