First Presbyterian Christian Academy is setting the bar high as the boys’ basketball team improved to 3-0 in region play and 9-8 overall after beating Robert Toombs Academy Tuesday, 79-50.
The Lady ‘Landers fell 39-37 to Toombs in what coach Rosby Frasier described as, “Three games lost by a total of five points equals sleepless nights.” The loss dropped the FPCA girls to 0-3 in the region and 3-5 overall.
Highlanders coach Ernie Walthour said it is a group of newcomers and a consistent veteran that have propelled his team in the recent games.
New to the varsity squad this year are Herbert Roberts, Josiah Alleyne, Damian Osborne, Ahman Muhammad and Chris Guilfo. Walthour said when combined with the leadership of second-year player Domonique Kirkley, the Highlanders have a chance of making a bid for a fourth state championship.
“This group has really made a difference as far as us coming together,” Walthour said. “At the beginning of the year, we weren’t rebounding well and we weren’t doing the things that it takes to make us a complete team.”
Walthour said the 6-foot-7 Osborne and 6-foot-8 Muhammad add a height element that has helped them hit the boards.
“Against Curtis (Baptist), we had 42 rebounds. Last night (against Robert Toombs), we had 30-something rebounds. These new guys have really stepped things up on the court for us,” he said.
Osborne is a senior who played at Liberty County High School before transferring to FPCA. He said he knew Walthour from his AAU Coastal Crew Rebels’ program.
“After last season, I felt I wasn’t getting the floor time that I should,” Osborne said. “I decided to come to FPCA for the basketball opportunity, but also because it is a better school. It’s a better fit for me. And it’s a better learning environment because the classes are smaller so we get more one-on-one time with the teachers. It’s easier to get your work done.”
Helping Osborne in rebounds is newcomer Ahman Muhammad, a sophomore. Last year he attended Richmond Hill High School and was on the junior-varsity squad. He said he played for the Rebels during the summer and understood coach Walthour’s vision and game strategy.
“I fit better with them than my former team,” he said. “The competition is definitely harder here and it’s better for me, as a younger person, to get some playing time on varsity so I’ll be ready for my junior and senior years.”
Walthour has been praising newcomer Chris Guilfo’s scoring abilities in the past three games. On Tuesday, Guilfo paced the Highlanders again, netting 23 points. Guilfo played briefly at Liberty County High School. He moved to Long County but decided FPCA is where he wanted to be.
“I played AAU with them (the Rebels) and I knew Ernie would be a good coach,” Guilfo said.
Alleyne is a junior this season, his first at FPCA. He also transferred from Liberty County High School saying his family wanted him to attend FPCA.
Kirkley is in his second varsity season, but is still a sophomore whose talent improves game by game, according to Walthour.
Missing the opportunity to play for the state title last season, Kirkely said he is ready win it this year.
“It’s great we are starting to win, starting to come together,” he said. “Our guard play is very strong we are playing better offensively.”
“We are coming together and we are looking for a region and state championship,” Walthour added. “We have a lot of younger talent that will be coming up in our future but this group and the rest of the team is really pulling it together.”
As for the Lady ‘Landers, coach Frasier said she is not discouraged about the outcomes of the last three games.
“We had a one-point loss, two-point loss and then again another two-point loss, and those are hard losses,” she said. “But we are trying to build the confidence in them reminding them we have been in the games up until the end. We try to learn from our mistakes.”
She said the team continues to work hard on what she called its Achilles’ heel – rebounding.
“The other team is getting second and third chances, and if you give a team ample time to get chances they are going to score,” she said. “But I’m working hard with our six girls and they are giving me all they got. There are plenty of region games left and we’ve been in and close in every region game so the confidence builder is we know we can play. We alleviate the mistakes and we’ll be fine.”
FPCA 79, RTCA 50
FPCA - Guilfo 23, Kirkley 15 and 12 rebounds, DJ Bratcher 3, Muhammad 4, Roberts 19, Alleyne 9, Osborne 4, Tommy Cai 2
RTCA 39, FPCA 37
FPCA - Alliyah Wilson 30, T’era Alston 7