By Doug Gorman
The South Metro Mustangs 15-year-old basketball team picked the right time to get hot.
With six victories in less than a week, the Mustangs brought home a Youth Basketball of America National National Championship in a tournament played in Orlando.
The Clayton County-based basketball team finished the year with a 33-15 record en route to its national title.
South Metro knocked off Germantown (Tennessee) 64-53 in the final game.
Mustang head coach Greg Smith didn't have the luxury of a deep bench as only eight players made the trip to Orlando.
Still, the coach got plenty of production out of his team.
"We had some guys missing, so we knew others were going to have to step up and play hard, and that's what we did," Smith said.
The South Metro Mustangs opened the tournament with a 74-46 victory against the Chesapeake Breakers (Maryland) to start their run toward the tournament championship.
In game two, the Mustangs knocked off the Manatee Storm (Florida) 78-54.
South Metro was half way to its national title after knocking off the Bull Run Bobcats (Virginia) 70-36 in the third game of the national tournament.
The fourth game of the tournament matched the Mustangs against another team from the Atlanta area as South Metro claimed bragging rights against West Atlanta 75-57.
In the semifinals, South Metro knocked off the Central Florida Yellow Jackets 58-55 to move into the finals of this year's tournament against Germantown.
Winning the national title capped off a year that started with some close losses.
South Metro began the year with a 9-11 record, but won 24 of the last 28 games.
The end of the season included three tournament wins in the state, and a 5-1 record at the Georgia qualifier, leading up to nationals.
The team is made up of basketball players from Mundy's Mill, Lovejoy, McIntosh and Fayette County high schools.
Most of the guys are expected contribute to their high school teams as early as this season.
"We are based out of Mundy's Mill Middle School, and we formed this team to get the guys ready to play at the next level. We play against All-Star teams from January through June, then again in August. We get support from the high school coaches, and that is the goal," Smith said.
Members of the team include, Alex Anderson, Jelani Cheek, Justoin Gant, Geremy Harps, Marcus Heard, DeQuavius Johnson, Chris Longoria and Adam Smith.
With only eight players on the roster at the national championship, getting balanced scoring was important. Everbody stepped up en route to the win with Heard and Johnson leading the way in the rebound department and on defensive.
Heard also helped pace the offense, pouring in 12 points over the tournament's six games.
In the championship game, Gant finished with a double-double, scoring 18 points and 11 rebounds, earning the "Hustle Award."
The Mustangs also got solid play from their guards, as Smith averaged 21 points, Longoria 17 and Anderson 14 to pace the victory.
Smith, who was team captain, was also named the MVP of the tournament. Longoria and Anderson were selected to the All-Tournament Team.