Basketball passion has reached a fever pitch at Greenwood Christian Academy. The Cougars boys and girls teams have attained top-10 rankings throughout the season. The boy’s team, coached by former Center Grove playmaker Jonny Marlin, is ranked No. 1 in class A by MaxPreps. The girls, coached by veteran mentor Alan Weems, are No. 7.
The boys are undefeated at 9-0. Their successes at mid-season are the fruits of a program that is playing to a level set by Marlin and the Cougars.
“Our theme of the year is ‘The Standard’ and we believe this applies to all areas of our lives (spiritual, academics, athletically, and socially),” Marlin explained. “When I met with our leadership team, Andrew Anderson and Champ McCorkle, they made it clear that one of standards we need to live up to is 100 percent effort. Obviously, this is a concept that seems simple, but to truly play all out on every single possession is a real challenge.”
Marlin is confident the team’s mindset should keep the Cougars focused and not blinded with success. GCA’s boys team is a big target for their opponents.
“Another thing is we try to embody a fearless mindset; 2nd Timothy 1:7 speaks into this,” the third-year coach said. “It is hard to be a good shooter when you have any fear while taking a shot or when you are on ball defensively.”
Marlin continued, “I believe for our team to continue to have success on the court, playing up to ‘The Standard’ and growing in love while keeping a fearless mindset are more important than any game plan we implore.”
The Cougars teams each won 1A sectionals last season but fell in their regional finals.
This season, the boys opened with a win at 4A Greenwood and are scoring at a 65.8 points per game.
The girls are 10-4 and have downed 4A Whiteland and 2A Speedway. They are scoring at 64.4 points per game.
The top-10 ranking also is well-received by girls coach Weems.
“We are still the 13th smallest school in the state,” Weems said. “For us to both be ranked in the top 10 is a pretty good accomplishment without a doubt. Our kids have big goals all we can do is take it one game at a time and one step at a time, but their goals are significant.”
The girls are led by four scorers averaging double-figures a game starting with junior Izzy Reed with an impressive “double double” of 23.6 points and 16.4 rebounds. Sophomore Ellie Bigelow is second in points (13.6), and senior Alexis Mead (10.7) and junior Savannah Frye (11.7) are not far behind.
Mead is the only senior on the team which adds up to a more experienced team next season.
Mead was the first Cougar of the season to surpass the 1,000-point career scoring mark; Reed was soon to follow.
“They love Alexis and they want to do everything they can this year to get Alexis as far she can get to. I really like the way we compete,” Weems said. “We actually led in three of the four losses in the fourth quarter.”
While expectations are rising, the girls don’t feel pressure because they support one another.
“Right now, I don’t feel any pressure,” Frye said. “It’s more like I’m just playing the game and playing with them and playing for GCA.”
It’s an attitude Mead agrees with.
“Because we know that we have each other’s backs,” Mead said.
The boys have a whopping nine seniors with five players 6-5 or taller, an advantage especially against 4A teams.
Senior Derek Petersen leads the team in scoring at 14.9 per game while versatile classmate Champ McCorkle has an impressive stat line of 12.1 points, 6.8 boards and 4.6 assists a contest.
Team chemistry is another aspect Marlin hopes will propel his team in post-season play this season
“I also think another critical part of our success is our love for one another,” Marlin summarized. “We have made countless sacrificial plays this season, whether that is taking charges, diving on loose balls, setting solid screens, or simply giving up a good shot for an even better one.”
The standard of togetherness, love, sacrifice and playing at 100 percent have the Cougars performing at a high level.