Team Infinite wins titles in Charlotte

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Team Infinite shows off its new hardware after winning the 10th grade American Division championship in Charlotte this past weekend. (Jewell Gardner/Contributed)

CHARLOTTE — Beaufort County was well represented in last weekend’s United States Basketball Association national championships. Local players helped lead Team Infinite’s 10th grade and 11-12th grade teams to USBA American Division championships.

The older group showcased its resolve by bouncing back from a loss in its first game. Infinite fell to the LBA Thunder, 65-54, in the tournament opener last Wednesday. Infinite responded with wins over VA Warriors Blue, the Moore County Thunder, Team Phoenix and the VA Allstars. Other than a four-point win over Moore County, Infinite won all its games by a large margin.

The 10th grade group won its opener, 50-46, over the Fayetteville Spurs, but also showed some tenacity in the way they held on throughout the tournament. After starting off with a win, Infinite dropped back-to-back games — including a loss to the eventual National Division champion Macon Bucks. They recovered to win three straight against the Tristars, CBC Swartz and the Rock Hill Rising Stars.

“They’re good kids and I think it was a very good learning experience with them,” coach Harvey Gardner said. “Even with the 10th grade team, they bounced back. … It’s all about momentum. Momentum changed for both of them and they never gave up. It’s all we preach: you can do and have what you want. I thank God for allowing me to interact with these young men.”

Momentum may have been the key to the Infinite teams winning championships, but winning and losing isn’t all the team stands for. Gardner’s main focus is using basketball as a means to improve the community.

“We really strive for greatness and improving our community,” he said. “That’s what this ministry is about: bettering our community. I’m really grateful that, with all the support, it’s just been unbelievable.”

The teams consisted of players from Beaufort County schools, as well as others throughout Martin, Pitt and other surrounding counties and even as far as Raleigh. Terra Ceia was well represented by standouts Tyler Hendrix and Messiah Barnes.

Before his passing last fall, Hendrix’s father, Mark, helped coach the team. Just as the Knights felt him watching over them as the Knights captured the conference championship last season, Gardner and Infinite believed he was helping guide them to their success, too.

“I went to Tyler and told him that we dedicated this nationals to his dad,” Gardner said. “His dad helped me for the last three years. This was the best time when we bonded together. It was a lonely trip because I’m used to having him with me. He was more of my mentor. … I shed some tears because I felt he was looking down on us and he was really happy.

In fact, wanting to dedicate the title to Hendrix was a driving force behind Infinite’s performance. The team went into the tournament with the intent to win it all.

“We already wanted to dedicate it to coach Mark Hendrix. Me and him had talked about it before he passed,” Gardner said. “We wanted to win nationals and put the kids in front, making sure they have a positive career.”

Finding such success was not only a complete team effort, but also a collective effort from the community. Haw Branch Church of Christ minister Jason Kirkman helped out by coaching and offering the team a gym to use free of charge.

“We’re trying to keep kids off the streets. He opened up his gym and said, ‘coach, I’m here for you,” Gardner said. “It was a blessing. Also, he coached and his two sons played.”

For Infinite to be able to accomplish its goal of being a ministry while also winning championships was truly something special.

“It was wonderful,” Gardner said. “These kids, some are going to get it and some won’t … It’s not just about basketball. It’s about a good education. We focus on the academics with our young men. I think Washington would be something great. We have the athletes here, but it’s all about building them up.”