Taking over Mount Zion Christian Academy’s girls basketball team looked like a challenge for first-year head coach Richard Jowers. The school, known far more for its boys’ star players from yesteryear, had struggled to a 3-17 mark the year before.
But Jowers wasn’t the only new face for the Warriors, which finished this year as Carolina Athletic Association for Schools of Choice champions with a 26-7 overall record.
The Warriors won the CAASC title on Feb. 25, 50-28 over Charlotte’s Sugar Creek Charter. It was a major turnaround from going 3-17 the year before. The Warriors were led by juniors Serenity Pham (10.8 ppg) and Ciara Findlayter-Stephenson (10.7).
“Mount Zion is known for its boys program: Tracy McGrady, Brandon Rush, Amare Stoudamire – I could go on and on and on,” Jowers said. “I just want to build the program up to where the boys’ program is.”
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Freshman Khalis Cain averaged 15.5 points and 19.5 rebounds per game. She had 10 points, 23 rebounds and six blocks in the title win.
“I just want to build around her,” Jowers said.
Pham and Ciara Findlayter-Stephenson both came to Mt. Zion from Canada and stayed with host families. After some early losses, the team bonded more and more throughout.
“I feel like it was definitely a bit of a rough patch at first,” Pham said. “The fact we’re easy going with each other and encouraging other, we know we can make mistakes and it’ll be OK.”