Binghampton community rallies around championship basketball team

(WMC-TV) - Players on Lester Middle School's basketball team live in an area that has seen more than its share of crime and violence, but the team's recent state championship success is causing people to think differently about the Binghampton community.

The Lester Middle School Lions were the special guest at Zion Temple COGIC Sunday, when the church honored the team for winning this year's state basketball championship.

"It made me feel real good," said point guard Nick Merriweather.

Nick Merriweather's three-point baskets helped the Lester Lions beat Fayette East 58-57.

"It was very difficult because actually we were down 15 points with three minutes left in the game," said Lester Lions coach Desmond Merriweather.

Desmond Merriweather is not only the coach, but Nick Merriweather's father.  He credited NBA great Penny Hardaway with stepping in to help coach and motivate the players.

"I told them all last season that the things they do good in life, it's going to come back to them, and this is what I really enjoy," said Hardaway.

Church members said they were eager to honor the team with awards and a banquet.  They said the middle schoolers' success on the court shows that something more than crime and violence is going on in Binghampton.

"This is your time to be young," said Congressman Steve Cohen.  "Appreciate it.  I wish I had another time to be young.  You only have one time to be young, don't try to do adult things.  Be young.  Play basketball."

Cohen was also on hand to honor the team.  His comments, along with those made by Hardaway and others, instilled pride in the Binghampton community.

"Cherish this day," said Hardaway.  "This means something.  This should mean something to you.  Like I said, you got the congressman in here.  You got people supporting you."

All the positive attention has the players fired up for next season.

"Go back next year and do the same thing," said Nick Merriweather.

Desmond Merriweather said what made their championship victory even sweeter is the fact that he battled colon cancer during the games leading up to the big victory.

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