By Leah Schmalz

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With a 10-1 record and only one game left in the season, any sports team could get too psyched out to do well. That doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Mint Hill Middle School boy’s basketball team. As the wins keep stacking up, their focus doesn’t waver.

“You’ve got to go 1-0 every day,” said Coach Erik Dove. Up until Monday’s game against Piedmont, the team had done just that. Despite the loss, they put up stiff competition that only gave way in the last play of the game for a final score of 50-48.    For player DJ Little, the team’s impressive season wasn’t a surprise. “That’s always my expectation,” he said. To stay focused, player DJ Little takes some shots before the game and listens to music. Team member Justice Wallace ˆmaintains his focus by viewing each game as a fresh slate.

“I don’t really think about it,” he said, talking about the team’s nearly perfect record. “Just go out there and play the game.”  While ignoring distractions may seem like an obvious strategy, it’s definitely not an easy one. At last Thursday’s game against Crestdale, the bleachers were packed with supportive fans and enthusiastic parents. Cheerleaders for both teams amped up the crowd, creating an environment that was nothing short of chaotic. Mint Hill wavered a bit, leading Crestdale by just two points at the half, but dominated the second half to pull off a victory. Coach Dove said the team has been working on taking charges, finishing lay-ups, free throws, and denying the ball.

After eight years of coaching, this is his final season. Stuart Turnbull is assisting this year and will take over the team next season. Playing on the team is contingent on maintaining good grades and scoring high on behavior charts. “The emphasis has been…developmental more so than competitive,” said Dove. “Our biggest success is: how many students do we have playing at the next level? How many students do we have going to high school?” Logan Springer is one of those students with plans to continue playing basketball at high school next year. “The love of the game is really the reason,” he said.  Even though there are no playoffs at the middle school level, the boys can take pride in the strong season they’ve had and use it to prepare for next year