The Sugar Hill Christian Academy varsity girls basketball team, as well as the middle school boys and girls teams, have all sealed their spots as GCAA Region 2 champions.
The girls varsity team claimed its first region championship in just its second year as a program by defeating Old Suwanee 46-36 on Thursday, Jan. 20.
The team holds a record of 17-4 this season, and head coach Doug Wasden attributes much of their success to a team first mentality.
“The focus is on team basketball, not individual statistical leaders,” Wasden said when asked about his top players. “We have many leaders on our team who lead in different ways. Every one of these girls are valuable to the success that we have had this year.”
Wasden then took the time to explain the individual factors, whether statistical or motivational, that each player brings. He highlighted the achievements of Emily Laughlin, Haily Pruitt, Lauren Clark, Claire Ferron, Katie Jones, Miren Peribino, Savannah Smith, Peyton Bergquist and Jessica Meyer, all of whom contribute something important and distinctive to the team unit.
After every other player had been recognized, Wasden also mentioned his two daughters who play for the team, Faith and Elly Grace Wasden. Faith, a 6-foot sophomore, leads the team in scoring, assists and steals, averaging an impressive 22.7 points per game.
Elly Grace, a 6-foot eighth grader who’s allowed to play up under the association’s rules, is a defensive force to be reckoned with, leading the team in rebounding and blocks, as well as being second in scoring and steals.
To emphasize the team values he wants to instill in his players, Wasden had them all paint a brick at the start of the season. Each player painted their brick with personal goals, team goals, their favorite Bible verse and what each one could contribute to the team. They then discussed their bricks before stacking them to demonstrate each one is an integral part of the team’s foundation.
The Sugar Hill Christian Academy varsity girls will play in the GCAA state basketball tournament starting Thursday, Feb. 17, but Wasden remains more focused on his players’ team building mentality than anything else.
“Of course, we want to play well enough to win the state championship and prove that our hard work paid off by being the best we could be. However, winning is not the end-all,” he said. “Basketball is about building relationships and enjoying our time together.
“We may lose a game, but we don’t lose relationships with each other,” Wasden added. “No one can take that away from us. Basketball is important, but life is more important.”
The middle school boys and girls teams also won their regions, meaning they will enter the GCAA state middle school tournament in the No. 1 seed position for Region 2.
Sugar Hill Christian Academy’s athletic director, Courtney Simmons, offered the highest praise for the coaches of both teams.
“Our coaches are just really top-notch folks,” he said. “I think it’s a combination of a lot of people willing to put forth a lot of effort, time, and sacrifice to give these kids an opportunity to compete on a little higher level.”
In addition to coaching the high school girls team, Wasden and his wife, Kim, also coach the middle school girls along with assistant coach Meredith Smith. Grant Fanning and Hans Hauser coach the middle and high school boys basketball teams.
“Elly Grace Wasden, she’s our highest scorer,” Simmons said of the middle school girls. “And then boys, I would say probably our leading scorer for the boys is Randal Fanning … It’s just a lot of kids that are willing to get out there and work hard.”
The middle school boys and girls teams were set to take part in the GCAA state middle school tournament at Old Suwanee, which is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 27, through Saturday, Jan. 29.
FEATURED PHOTO: Sugar Hill Christian Academy’s No. 1 Ava Wasden takes a shot during a recent middle school basketball game. Photo courtesy of Sugar Hill Christian Academy’s basketball program.