The coaches of the Bethlehem Christian Academy basketball teams packed their non-region schedules this season with a slate of GHSA opponents, and that preparation against tougher competition showed Friday, Jan. 10.
Playing in their home gym, the BCA girls and boys jumped out to huge early leads and never looked back in their GISA Region 4-AAA openers against Augusta Prep. The Lady Knights won 56-32, and the boys followed that up with a 73-42 triumph.
“We played with a lot of energy,” said BCA boys’ coach William Steele, whose team improved to 7-9 overall. “Our energy level was really high and it started out in practice (Thursday). We just had a different mindset. We’ve played a lot of hard games before this to get us ready and this performance really showed how well they prepared.”
After Cole Bissell’s 3-pointer gave Augusta Prep (5-10, 0-2 region) a 3-2 lead in the first minute, the Knights went on a 22-0 tear to grab firm control of the game before the Cavaliers scored their next bucket at the 1:36 mark in the first quarter.
The Knights used an aggressive defense to force the Cavaliers into several turnovers, creating plenty of opportunities in transition during the run. Augusta Prep never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way, and BCA steadily added on to the lead in the second half.
Five BCA players finished in double figures and nine registered points. Senior guard Ray Peevy led the way with 16 points, including 10 in the third quarter. Jacob Adams added 13, Andrew Richey pitched in 12, and Eliel Saint Louis and Laine Jean Francois finished with 10 apiece.
“Hats off to them,” Steele said of his team. “We rotated really well early and did a lot of communicating. I love defense and I’m really proud of them for the way they played. Offensively, they’re sharing the ball. Our passes are getting better. They want to play with one another, and you can tell that chemistry is really building.”
Steele is in his first season with the Knights and took over the program after Robert Strong left to become an assistant at East Jackson. Peevy and Jean Francois are the returning starters off last year’s team that went 23-7 and reached the Final Four, while Richey, Adams and Saint Louis are among the returning players who have taken on bigger roles.
Steele said his primary expectation for the rest of the season is for the Knights to continue to improve in every facet of the game.
“I like playing harder competition because some of these guys want to go play at the next level,” Steele said. “I want them to be fundamentally sound and make sure we’re getting great shots and understanding it’s about ‘we,’ not ‘me.’
“We’ve got a great team, some great leaders, and I look forward to seeing them continuing to work and get better.”
BCA GIRLS 56, AUGUSTA PREP 32
The Lady Knights used a 17-4 run that started late in the first quarter to build a 14-point halftime lead over Augusta Prep and continued to roll in the second half.
Jadyn Goddard, who finished with 17 points, hit a trio of 3-pointers over the course of that run and BCA (9-7, 1-0 region) continued to pull away in the second half. Rebekah Doolittle scored 17 of her game-high 19 points after the break, connecting on three shots from beyond the arc.
“I was stressing all week because they had a tight game against John Milledge and they looked good on film,” Lady Knights coach Lashon Steele said. “But I think our team played really well. Playing those GHSA schools is only going to help us. We may not have won those games, but it is definitely paying off.”
As with the boys’ game, the Lady Knights played strong defense early and forced Augusta Prep (11-3, 0-2) into several mistakes.
“I was very happy about our defensive effort,” Steele said. “I just wish we could have stayed in our press a little longer, but at least we were able to make the necessary adjustments. We need a little more presence inside to carry us and we’ve got to be able to control the ball, have less turnovers, run our offense and get our basketball IQ up.
“That’s really going to help us moving forward into region play.”
Both BCA teams will resume region play Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Westminster School of Augusta and will be back home Friday, for a region bout against John Milledge Academy. The girls’ tipoff times are at 6 p.m. with the boys to follow.
AP 13 12 11 6 — 42
BCA 26 17 19 11 — 73
AP: Khaleel Pratt 21, Devin Long 8, Ryan Javaheri 3, Cole Bissell 3, Ben Monnig 3, Charles Connell 2, Will Monnig 2
BCA: Ray Peevy 16, Jacob Adams 13, Andrew Richey 12, Eliel Saint Louis 10, Laine Jean Francois 10, Ethan Guthas 5, Timothy Doolittle 3, Matthew Binns 2, Maddox Harden 2
AP 12 3 4 13 — 32
BCA 17 12 11 16 — 56
AP: Anna Sims 9, Nina Shaver 8, Angela Shaver 8, Jessie Rosenblum 4, Mae Wallace Baker 2, Virginia Chew 1
BCA: Rebekah Doolittle 19, Jadyn Goddard 17, Brooke Peevy 8, Katherine Gano 4, Autumn Shepherd 4, Ella Bourbonnais 2, Taylor Anne Buckner 2