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Home cooking

The East Chicago Urban Enterprises Academy seventh-and-eighth-grade boys basketball team finished the season at 27-1, which included championship efforts at the Gary Middle School Tournament and the PUC Holiday Hoops Tournament. Front row from left, head coach Kyle Adams, Jarel Triplett, Tyreion Jackson, Sydrick Sinclair, Ja'Rey Triplett and assistant coach Roy Smith; back row, assistant coach Melissa Mendiola, Joshua Smith, Carlos Hardy, Devonte Jones, Keishawn Lewis and assistant coach Leon Smith.

EAST CHICAGO | Kids have been playing basketball in the cafeteria again.

Kyle Adams, who's in charge of discipline at East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy, knows the culprits.

"You see those marks on the ceiling," Adams points out, "they're from guys shooting basketballs."

Adams has witnessed the acts firsthand as he is the head coach of the ECUEA Tigers seventh-and-eighth-grade boys team, which utilizes the school's cafeteria as its practice gym despite the low ceiling and spartan spacing.

"You've got to be creative," Adams said. "If anything, it has taught our team to be more patient on offense ... to really work the ball inside ... to be more precise and crisp with our passes.

"We don't have much room to work with. And with the low ceiling, you just can't throw up outside shots to shoot over a defense."

Still, the Tigers are going to have to shoot sometime. Adams has an answer for that.

"We have them practice shooting (at portable goals) while sitting in a chair," Adams said. "It actually helps them come up shooting with their elbows and arms held higher. A lot of guys at this level get in the habit of starting their shots from below the chest."

Though the Tigers practice in their own cafeteria, they usually don't get much "home cooking" when they play for real.

"Our home games are at the (East Chicago Katherine House) Boys & Girls Club and at the East Chicago Salvation Army," Adams said. "But we haven't had too many this year."

Despite this, the Tigers finished the season at 27-1, which included championship efforts at the Gary Middle School Tournament and the Purdue University Calumet Holiday Hoops Tournament.

"The PUC tourney was tough," said Adams, whose team survived an overtime encounter with Grimmer as well as defeating a talented Merrillville Pierce squad.

The only game the Tigers lost was to Beasley Academic Center during a tournament in Chicago.

"And that was only by four points," Adams said of the loss to a longtime Chicago elementary and junior high basketball power, famously the alma mater of Chicago Bulls all-star guard Derrick Rose.

ECUEA only has 90 boy and girls students at the seventh- and eighth-grade level.

"We're not very big, but we have four solid guards," Adams said. "We also have a great rebounder in Devonte Jones. He's usually about three or four inches shorter than the guys he's battling for rebounds, but he's great at boxing out and getting up to get the ball."

Adams said the Tigers generated much of their offense from defensive pressure and going to the hole in the open court. And if you were an ECUEA opponent who believed that teams that press generally don't like to be pressed, you likely found out too late that these Tigers are hard to trap.

"I loved when teams pressed us ... I practically begged them to," Adams said. "Last year, we had a little trouble at times, but this year we broke presses fairly easily. Yeah, some teams would get a couple of turnovers from us, but more often we would end up with easy baskets."