If you were to sit down right now and compose a list of NEPA's basketball powerhouses, who'd be on it?
Those would no doubt be among the most common answers. And, I don't think there'd be much dissent.
However, here's a team that might make you want to reconsider your thought processes and conclusions.
And, I'm not even talking about John Ashley's boys varsity squad ... a team that owns numerous KCEA state and NPCA tourney titles.
Nor am I alluding to Jerry Birmelin's girls, who haven't suffered a regular season loss in two years.
The ballclub I'm singling out for special mention is CCA's girls junior varsity.
That's right: the JVs.
These young Lady Eagles just returned from an all-day tournament in Milton where they went unbeaten and claimed first place.
Unimpressed? Well, that's understandable because you don't know the whole story ... a remarkable tale that begins with the fact that CCA's all time record in girls JV games is 123-9.
I'll give you a moment to digest those numbers: 123-9. That's a staggering win percentage of .932, folks.
What do you think? Are the Lady Eagles on your list now? They're on mine!
In the Beginning
Page 2 of 4 - When Canaan Christian Academy officials decided to begin organizing a junior varsity girls basketball team 11 years ago it was ... you'll forgive the expression ... a leap of faith.
After all, the little school located right down the road from Western Wayne sports a modest overall enrollment of around 300 students.
Just fielding full teams for the boys and girls varsity was a struggle back in the early days. However, as the program sunk its roots and began growing, athletics programs took off.
Canaan has evolved into a powerhouse in both soccer and basketball. So, the decision to nurture its feeder programs was a natural one.
"This is the 11th year my wife and I have had the privilege of coaching the younger girls," said John Ashley. "And, every year it's challenging, new and always exciting."
This year is no exception to that observation. To date, the Lady Eagles are 6-1 on the season and newly-crowned champions of the Meadowbrook Christian Tournament.
Setting the Stage
Canaan opened its gold medal quest this weekend with a dominating 42-8 win over Great Commission.
Holli Ashley's girls raced out to a 16-0 first quarter lead, then cruised home to the victory.
CCA's junior varsity roster boasts just nine players and eight of them found their way into the scorebook.
Faith Swingle led the way with a game-high 22 points. The talented young cager hit 11-of-13 shots from the floor while also hauling in six rebounds and snagging four steals.
Swingle was aided and abetted by Shannin Soulsby, Brenna McLaughlin and Krystal Draidfort, each of whom tallied four points.
Page 3 of 4 - Hannah Vigil, Emily Ballard, Casey Skelton and Natalie Thomoson chipped in with two apiece.
This impressive victory catapulted Canaan into the title tilt and a date with the host team.
The Lady Eagles once again leapt out to an early lead, but Meadowbrook refused to fold. The Lions began roaring late in the game, eventually tying the score and forcing overtime.
That's when things got really interesting.
Both teams appeared to be exhausted at the end of regulation, but adrenaline took over at the start of OT.
Draidfort gave Canaan a 23-21 lead midway through the first extra session, but Meadowbrook struck back and forced a second period.
McLaughlin scored off the opening tip, then sealed the deal late with a driving lay-up. Brenna scored all four of her points in the final OT as the Lady Eagles held on for a 27-23 win.
Draidfort finished up with a game-high 11 points and also snared five steals.
Swingle nearly posted a double-double, winding up with 10 points and eight rebounds.
McLaughlin added four assists, five steals and three blocks for an impressive and well-balanced stat line.
Vigil rounded out the scoring with one basket and five boards.
"We're so proud of these girls," Coach Ashley said. "They're such a great group and we love working with them everyday."
Swingle was named to the All-Tournament Team, while McLaughlin brought home MVP honors.
Score by Quarters...
CCA (6-1) 5 8 4 4 2 4 - 27
Page 4 of 4 - MCS (4-2) 6 4 2 9 2 0 - 23