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Talking about Wilson Christian Academy varsity basketball in 2018-19 will lead to frequent mention of “transition.”
The boys program undertakes the transition of 37-year-old Kevin Zander as the successor to Andy Coffman as head coach. Zander, a youth pastor at Neuse Baptist in Raleigh, preaches the motto: “Never give up” and emphasizes the focus will be upon transition (of defense to offense).
Veteran girls head coach Brian Trull, beginning his 19th season, makes no secret of the fact he expects the transition game to produce most of his team’s offense. He wants his Lady Chargers to run and shoot layups.
Both varsity teams tip off their seasons Friday night at home against DASH United.
The Lady Chargers’ 13-player roster lists only three newcomers. Last season’s team posted an 18-13 record and reached the North Carolina Christian School Association 2-A state semifinals.
“We have the same team as last year — only it’s better,” Trull declared. “We are going to run a whole lot more; we will not be deliberate at all.”
Zander has been pleased with the transition with just two players off the 2017-18 team that advanced into the state quarterfinals.
“The students have responded very well to everything we have been asking from them in our Bible devotions and on the court,” Zander remarked. “It has been great so far; I’m excited.”
WHY THEY’RE BETTER
Why does Trull believe the Lady Chargers will be improved in 2018-19? Let him explain.
— With a bunch of juniors and seniors, the team is “finally mature.” Eight of last season’s 13 losses were by single-digit margins and Trull is convinced the additional year of maturing will reverse that situation.
— Junior Ashley Hartsfield, probably the best shooter, is healthy after missing about half of last season with an injury.
— McKenna Griffin, a 5-foot-10 senior, has been much more decisive and is displaying a strong desire to do what she needs to do to help the team.
— Sophomore Lea Gossett, injured last season, will surprise folks. Said Trull: “She is physically strong and facilitates everything.”
Gossett, praised for her decision-making, will likely start at the point with Hartsfield at shooting guard. Also starting up top will be junior Olivia Vick. Completing the starting five will be Griffin and senior Christy Jones.
Griffin paced a balanced scoring attack last season with a norm of 10 points per game. Jones averaged four points and was a strong rebounder. Senior Caitlyn Barnes and junior Madison Carnes each scored at a clip of five points per outing.
Coming off the bench will be junior Kayla Tant. Seniors Grace Reams and Brenda Reece return. The newcomers are junior Paige Petty, junior Kristen Reece and sophomore Katelyn Parker.
Tant and Carnes join Hartsfield as 3-point threats. Griffin can score inside. Barnes and Carnes are fast and tenacious defenders, and Gossett has been a solid defender. Important is keeping Barnes out of foul trouble.
The program eyes a 17th consecutive winning season as Trull, wearing an excited countenance as usual, has directed his teams to a 372-145 record.
The Lady Chargers are seeking their first appearance in the state final since 2014 — after winning titles in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
“We have a good shot as any to get back — and we play (state finals) here,” Trull commented. “We have to stay healthy and play fast. If we can get out and go, we will be hard to beat.”
Zander’s educational background includes Piedmont Baptist College. He is a Maryland native who played high school basketball and baseball. He has coached at various levels — including Neuse Baptist and the Wilson Christian middle school team last season.
“It was a God thing,” Zander explained being attracted to his new coaching position. “We have been praying for the boys basketball program for the last couple of years It made sense for us and it answered prayers for everybody. I see basketball as an instrument to point young men to Christ.”
Only senior Zach Hunter and junior Harrison Parker return. Hunter was a mainstay last season, averaging 12 points and seven assists per contest. Parker is coming off his first varsity season and is expected to step up and provide more scoring and leadership.
Both will see duty at the point and will likely be joined in the opening-night starting lineup by senior Brice Murray, 6-1 senior Zack Denmark and, said Zander, the hungriest player at Thursday night’s practice.
Zander regards Murray and Parker as “blue-collar” players. Freshman Destin Melvin displays a “nose for the ball” and senior Adrian Dehart and senior Andrew Blalock will see action. Denmark, said Zander, is fast gaining experience and could be an offensive and defensive constant.
Completing the roster are 6-4 senior Kess Little, sophomore Calvin Peacock, senior Brian Paul, sophomore Seth Thompson and sophomore Cameron Frieden.
Zander yearns to see his club competitive against the likes of Bethel Christian of Kinston, Sheets Memorial and Tabernacle.
“We are hungry to run and enjoy being aggressive on defense,” he assessed. “We will give it our best effort and run hard. As long as we give it our best effort, we will be satisfied with that.
“We will play as well as each individual plays together as a team.”