by Chris Hunt
With a 69-45 victory over Gaston Christian on Jan. 24, the SouthLake Christian Academy girls basketball team won its 14th game for the first time since 2006. The Eagles added a 15th win on Jan. 25 in Indian Trail, defeating Metrolina Christian, 68-51.
After two consecutive losing seasons, the Eagles are generating more than a little excitement about the program this winter. SouthLake Christian’s now averaging more than 60 points per game, bringing back memories of former Eagles championship-winning coach Lew Soulsby’s high-octane offense. SouthLake Christian has won six of its last seven games since the winter break.
While first-year coach Terry Batts deserves much of the credit, he deflects such praise, noting that good basketball players simply are responsible for the program’s resurgence.
Batts said 6-foot-3 center Brianne Mack, who scored 31 points against Metrolina Christian, is controlling the lane, chipping in five blocks and 15 rebounds per game. He added that Mack and shooting guard Kourtney Hailey, who chipped in 21 points at Metrolina Christian, are averaging more than 18 points a game this season, but it’s the team depth that has him excited about the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A playoffs, which will be held at Asheville Christian Academy Feb. 24-25.
“I think for a private school, it’s rare that we have four solid guards who can handle the basketball and avoid pressure,” said Batts. “Teams can’t key on just one player like Brianne or Kourtney.”
Batts said his daughter, Tera, is manning the point guard position, averaging seven assists per game. He also said senior Sarah Lipinski is a versatile left-hander who is averaging five points per game between the point- and shooting-guard spots. Hailey can also handle the ball in the open floor, while Anna Landis has increased her scoring to six points per game.
But the player who Batts said has made the most strides during conference play is freshman Giselle Verville, a guard scoring at a clip of nine points per game. Verville, who played on the varsity squad as an eighth-grader last season, has a deadly outside shot that breaks down zone defenses and keeps teams from double-teaming Mack and Hailey. Batts said Verville is making an average of three 3-point shots per game and while shooting 55 percent from behind the arc.
“Giselle is picking up her shooting this season,” said Batts. “She’s able to utilize her outside shot, forcing defenses to go man-to-man. And when they do, they can’t handle Brianne in the post. Once Brianne seals her opponent, with her reach and height, no one can handle her down low.”
The Eagles improved to 15-4 overall, 7-2 in the Metrolina Athletic Conference after the Jan. 25 victory, trailing only first-place Concord First Assembly, a team that has had SouthLake Christian’s number this season. First Assembly is one of the few teams that can match the Eagles’ size, standing taller than SouthLake Christian at most positions on the court.
First Assembly, led by 6-foot-3 Gardner-Webb recruit Chaylia Coleman, defeated SouthLake Christian, 69-60, in Concord on Dec. 7 and 52-46 on Jan. 18. Former Hopewell basketball player T’ Shea Glenn (9.8 points, 3.8 steals per game) also plays for First Assembly.