Word of God Christian Academy’s girls basketball team is going through expected growing pains – but that’s better than last year’s alternative, when there was no varsity team at all.
The Holy Rams’ return to the court this year was a joint effort, said first-year athletic director Alvin Thompson. Principal Anesha Pittman was intent on reviving the program, which has a strong history. Word of God won back-to-back girls basketball 1A state titles in 2010 and 2011 as then-members of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association.
But there were only seven players on that 2011 title team. Four seniors graduated, while the rest – including future Broughton star and N.C. State player Kaila Ealey – transferred and left the program barren.
One of the state’s best small private school girls basketball programs went from defending champions to nonexistent overnight.
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Thompson hired Van Monroe, who had been assisting Cedar Ridge High School, to lead the team back on the court this year.
Three players transferred in, three others moved up from the Word of God middle school team, and two others who were at the high school without a team joined as well.
Monroe calls it “a foundation year.”
“We’ve got to remove those ups and downs and get some consistency,” Monroe said. “The good thing about it is, they don’t like to lose. We’ve got to learn how to win games like this, and that’s something that helps build the foundation.”
The Holy Rams are 7-12, but Monroe has seen growth since the beginning of the year already. Elise Williams is the team’s leading scorer (14.8 ppg) as an eighth-grader.
And the success may spur other teams. Thompson said Word of God is looking into the possibility of more sports for girls, such as volleyball and girls soccer.
“It’s rough because the majority of the teams we play are older than us, but the girls – the lumps they’re taking now, will be things that blossom and be something special next year,” Monroe said. “It’s actually been a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. I’m asking (the kids) to do a lot more things than I had been doing.”