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FPCA ready for big dance
jd fpca basketball
In its inaugural varsity season, First Presbyterian has advanced to the GISA Final 4. The Highlanders play David Emanuel today in Milledgeville. Pictured in back (l-r) are assistant coach David Linderman, Preyen Patel, Joey Bell, Hakeem Golden, Joshua Rodgers, Terrence “T.A.” Alston and coach Darrell West. In front (l-r) are Sunny Patel, Michael Brown, Griffin Larkin and Kyle Weinerth. - photo by Photo by John Deike
The youthful underdogs who compose the First Presbyterian Christian Academy basketball team serve as a prototypical model for how a first year varsity team should be brought up and developed.  
The Highlanders, who are a scrappy group of eighth, ninth and tenth graders, defied odds and turned skeptics into witnesses as they have rolled over teams who are two to four years their senior.  
“We went through some growing pains in the middle of the season, but then we really started to gel as a team,” head coach Darrell West said. “We developed a camaraderie and that kind of cohesion is what has propelled us this far into the tournament.”
As the state championship lies within the Highlanders’ grasp, they have to prove themselves once more as they enter into the GISA final four to compete against David Emmanuel Academy today at Georgia College.  
DEA is a big team who outmatches the Highlanders in size, but they will execute a game plan that involves double-teaming and other defensive strategies to negate their size, West said.
“I have always taught my players to focus on defense,” West said. “We play a zone defense due to our smaller size, and we pair that with an offense that can do anything out on the floor.”
True, players like sophomore Joey Bell and freshman Mike Brown combined their efforts to score an average of 40 points a game, which is a phenomenal achievement for a couple of 15 and 16-year-olds.  
With their confidence established, the Highlanders have knocked out teams like Robert Toombs in the sweet 16 (who were last year’s defending state champions) and they also defeated Westwood High School in the elite 8.
“We just believed in ourselves when no one else believed in us, and we used those negative expectations as a motivator to build up our team,” team captain Terrence Alston said.
The players also attribute much of their success to coach West who has sculpted them into a disciplined and hard working team.  
“Coach West showed us how to have fun, play hard and he has taught us important life lessons that have stuck with us along the way.” Bell said.
West said that he has put a quality team on the floor that has grown and performed well, and that next year his team will return with even more maturity and development. But all things considered, West said that his team is knocking on the door of the state championship and all they want to do is walk through it.
“We just want to beat DEA and make it to state’s, and losing is the very last thing on our mind.  We will not have fully accomplished our goals unless we win state, and we plan to do that,” sophomore Joshua Rodgers said.  
Coach West and the Highlanders would also like to take the opportunity to thank St. James for their support and for allowing them to practice in their sports center this past year. 
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