They were only scrimmages, but to the folks watching Fort Stewart’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy go against First Presbyterian Christian Academy, it was lights out and game on.
The scrimmages took place Wednesday evening at the St. James Sports Center.
In the end, FPCA’s girls and boys emerged the winners, 47-21 and 61-45, respectively. But for the YCA players and fans, it was the thrill of experiencing a game outside their normal settings. YCA was named the home teams and presented halftime shows.
“One of the biggest thing I’ve seen is that earlier in the program, when we first started, it was heavily disciplined military type stuff and we’ve kept some of those components, but we’ve added fun events displaying more athleticism and arts and crafts, choir, step teams, drill teams and things that are a softer approach as well,” YCA Director Roger Lotson said.
Lotson was named the YCA director six months ago but has worked for YCA 12 years.
“We are fully aware that in the real world… there is not a drill sergeant wherever they go so we are trying, as the cadets go through the program, to loosen the reigns a little bit so they can make an easier transition back,” Lotson said. “It is critical for a number of reasons, one being it gives the individuals an opportunity to display whatever talents they may have, in this case athleticism. But also gives the other students who are out there watching a fun outlet.”
Ernie Walthour, who is the Highlanders’ varsity coach and coaches the YCA boys team, said they’ve been working with local prep schools in setting up more games against YCA so the cadets can experience a traditional high school environment and also showcase their talents.
The girls tipped off first with two surprise starters, returning player Asyria Daniels and new transfer Dazya Ingram.
Daniels played for FPCA before but moved out of the area. She played at Bradwelll for one season of soccer then moved to Japan before returning and re-enrolling at FPCA. Daniels is quick on her feet and an experienced ball handler, something the Lady ‘Landers needed after graduating Aaliyah Wilson and T’era Alston. Ingram is 6-foot-1 and provided the inside game the girls needed.
“Christmas came a little early for me,” FPCA’s girls’ basketball coach Rosby Frasier said. “It was very important that we had someone who could play the inside position and Ingram has adapted well to the program and is definitely an asset. Daniels came in and she is a great ball handler and excellent defensively, so I couldn’t ask for more. With Brooke (Standard) and Asyria at the top we should do well.”
And the Lady HIghlanders did well, staying ahead the whole game. Ingram led the girls in scoring with 16 points.
At half-time YCA’s drill team performed, delighting the crowd. During the boys’ half-time the step team took center stage.
Walthour said they hope to organize competitions with Bradwell Institute and the YCA for their step and drill teams.
“It’s been years since we’ve been able to travel to other states and participate in invitationals so this is the first time in a long while and we missed it,” Lt. Valerie Barnett said.
Barnett is in charge of the YCA drill team and step teams and has worked at YCA for more than 19 years
She said recent budget cuts have prevented YCA sports teams from competing against other YCA programs. Those competitions were usually the only times the cadets got to interact with other teenagers outside of their facility.
“ We want to start all over again,” right now they are learning what other teenagers are doing socially,” she said.” It teaches our cadets discipline and how to get along with others. It helps them realize there are more things out there for them to do so when they graduate from YCA they are ready. A lot of our kids are looking to join Fraternities and Sororities that is what they are looking forward to.”
As the boys prepared to tip-off, YCA team captain and point guard Kaleak Watts said he welcomed the thought of playing other high schools.
“It’s a chance for us to showcase our talents,” he said. “A lot of us have been through a lot of things and we come here to Youth ChalleNGe Academy and we turn things around and this gives us a chance to showcase what we have and what we can do and hopefully take it to another level.”
The boys scrimmage was set for two 20 minutes halves and the barrage of three-point shots, slam dunks and take-aways kept the fans roaring.
Highlander Herbert Roberts sank two trey shots and finished with 20 points. Highlander Tevin Womack hit two 3-pointers in the game and finished with nine points.
The Highlanders open their regular season on the road Dec. 11, at Appling Christian.
Lady Landers 16|10|19|2 – 47
Youth ChalleNGe 6|6|3|6 – 21
Highlanders 35|26 – 61
YCA boys 18|27 – 45