There was much to celebrate Friday at the St. James Sports Center. The FPCA Highlanders had their annual homecoming game against tough region opponent Citizens Christian Academy.
Both the middle school and varsity ’Landers grabbed wins. The Lady ’Landers suffered their second loss to CCA.
FPCA’s 89-46 win was business as usual. The Highlanders were creative, confident and in control despite two players being unable to play the homecoming game.
Sophomore standout Isaiah Scott has been sidelined for a couple of weeks by a wrist injury. Senior Trayvon Harris was on a college visit.
Senior John Killough has been instrumental the last several weeks. He dominated under the rim Friday, overwhelming the opponents.
Killough contributed 16 points. Point guard Simon Steele had 25 points, sinking threes and was accurate from all over the court. Khalyn Weekley had 22 points. George Mitchell had 15. Sensier Carnes contributed 7 and Brandon Attical had 4 off the bench.
Coach Shane Smith said he is cautiously optimistic for a repeat state title. But he said he keeps pressure on his players.
"We are coming into our best play yet," the coach said. "The team is cohesive and everyone understands their part and how to play it. Defensively, we could have done better tonight, and to win the harder games we need to. We will maintain our high standard of play throughout the rest of the season to better prepare for the playoffs."
The Lady ’Landers lost 51-30. In a repeat from their last matchup, foul trouble was a deciding factor. With two starters in early foul trouble, the girls were forced to play cautiously.
Coach Lee Christensen was frank.
"We should be playing them better," he said. "In our first match against CCA we played them close and had the lead several times. Foul trouble allowed CCA to pull away at the end in that match. The game tonight we had much of the same trouble". Christensen said the fouls could have been avoided.
"I can pretty much tell you when they are going to happen," he said. "We need to be able to move on from moments of frustration and keep our heads in the game."
Christensen was positive about several players’ improvement.
"Helana Scott has been valuable giving us some energy off the bench," the coach said. "She aggressively goes after a ball and is not afraid to shoot. When we hit that foul trouble she gets in there and makes a difference.
"Cecilia Graham had a great game against CCA both times we faced them. When we are in foul trouble she does not panic and her calmness and confidence is showing. She has been sinking valuable buckets to try and keep us in the game.
"Jelissa Estrada is tenacious on the court. She does not give up on a ball. Early in this game, she had a beautiful three-point shot that started us off offensively tonight.
"Auset Gibbs is everywhere on the court. She is fast as lightning and can chase down anyone.
"Cassandra Ruff and Mary Kathryn Whitney are critical to our game and we need them on the court."
Christensen thinks they will face CCA again in the playoffs and knows they can compete.
Graham had 11 points, Scott 6, Estrada 5, Gibbs 3, Ruff 2 and Whitney 1.
In the lead up to the varsity matches, the FPCA middle school earned their first win ever. By the fourth quarter of this barn-burner the home crowd was on their feet cheering. FPCA won 37-35.
Coached by David Linderman, most of the middle school players are their first year. Linderman’s experience with the middle school, JV and varsity squads over a decade has helped him develop players.
His talents as a coach showed Friday in his young squad as they battled against a tough CCA. In the back and forth game, the Highlanders never gave up and overcame a team that was supposed to win.
Linderman said he’s proud of his squad.
"We have several eighth graders on the court that are leading by example. Alfred Martin, Philip McGowan and Weston Lormis are showing maturity and determination that are excellent examples for my younger players. They pay attention and listen. Their leadership helped carry us through this game. At no time in this game did the squad stop playing their hardest."
He said the game was more than just a win.
"The confidence it is going to bring them is invaluable and shows them how all of our hard work the past couple of weeks have paid off."
He also praised Timothy Christensen, James Osteen and DJ Christensen.
"This squad is the future of FPCA varsity basketball," the coach said. "As a team, we will develop and do our best to maintain our reputation as a threat and contender in the region and the State."
Scorers; Martin 24 points, Lormis 4, Osteen 3, DJ Christensen 3, McGowan 2 and Timothy Christensen 1.
During halftime, the homecoming court was introduced and the king and queen announced.
The court included 6th grader Jasmine Nunn, 7th grader Mackenzie Bazemore, 8th grader Alyson Cochran, 9th grader Ali Dye, 10th grader Haley Stuart, 11th grader Mackenzie Buckley and 12th graders Jorja Wu, Autumn Beasley, Cecilia Graham, Mary Kathryn Whitney, Jordan Gilliard, John Killough, Brandon Attical and Nathan Burriss. Winning the crowns were Killough and Whitney.