Local cagers have a new identity and a new lease on life
Like the mythical Phoenix, one local high school basketball team has risen from the ashes here in Wayne County.
The Calkins Conquerors began their 2018-19 season as Damascus Christian Academy, but dwindling enrollment and a string of injuries nearly wiped the team out.
Fortunately, several local leaders put their heads together and came up with a brilliant solution. Coach Lane Jones, who also happens to be pastor of the Calkins Baptist Church, led the charge.
Jones has been at the helm of the boys basketball program ever since Nick Barna retired and he's thrilled that his church has been able to take over sponsorship. By doing so, Calkins could also offer homeschooled students a chance to play … which nearly doubled the team's previous roster size.
“It's really kind of reinvigorated the program,” said Coach Jones, watching his players warm up in their crisp new uniforms.
“It's been a lot of fun welcoming the new kids and watching them become part of the team.”
On the Court
On Tuesday evening, Calkins made Canaan Christian its latest victim.
The Conquerors rocketed out to a big early lead, then cruised to an eventual 64-45 decision. Nathan Adams, Peyton Warner and Danny Adams paced a balanced Calkins attack, each cracking double figures.
“I'm very pleased with how the boys played,” said Coach Jones.
“We came out with a lot of energy and maintained it pretty much throughout the game. I'm especially happy with how well we played defense and rebounded. It was a good win.”
Calkins improved its overall record to 7-5 and appears to be building some serious momentum as the NPCA Tournament draws ever closer.
“I'm excited to see what we can do,” Coach Jones said. “The guys are really starting to mesh. They're playing unselfishly and becoming a team.”
The 31st Annual NPCA Tournament is scheduled for March 7-9. Canaan will once again host the event with contests slated for several local venues.
Before the opening tip, Coach Jones indicated that he wanted his kids to employ a high-energy, up-tempo attack … which is exactly what they did.
Led by Adams and Warner, the Conquerors hit the floor running and never looked back. The visitors raced out to a 13-2 lead, forcing Canaan Coach Nick Schweinsburg to call time.
Calkins closed out the quarter with a 17-4 lead, then turned up the heat even more in the second period. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Conquerors had increased their advantage to 40-17.
“We set the tone pretty much right from the start,” Coach Jones said. “I really like what I saw at both ends of the court.”
Adams led the way with a game-high 21 points. Nate slashed his way to eight field goals and enjoyed a 5-for-7 stint at the foul line.
Warner was very nearly as impressive, finishing his night with 17 points on the strength of five baskets and seven free throws.
“Those are our two seniors and we knew coming in Canaan would probably have a tough time matching up with them,” Coach Jones said.
“Nathan does just about everything well and Peyton really attacks the basket with ferocity. They're both excellent leaders and very good teammates.”
Over & Out
Canaan made several halftime adjustments and played much better after intermission.
Cory May and Aden Swartley led the way on offense. May rattled the rims for a team-best 18 points while also grabbing six rebounds and handing out four assists. Swartley powered his way to a double-double with 12 points and 16 boards.
Despite this potent 1-2 punch, Calkins' speed and athleticism were just too much for the Eagles to overcome. The Conquerors pushed the lead as high as 21 points late in the third quarter before Coach Jones emptied his bench.
“It's always good to get the younger kids some quality minutes,” he said. “That kind of experience always pays dividends in the long run.”
Danny Adams is one of those talented youngsters, a deadeye perimeter shooter who turned in a memorable performance Tuesday night.
Adams dialed up four long distance treys and wound up with 12 points.
“We knew that Canaan would probably try to double up on our two seniors as much as they could, so that gave Danny some good open looks,” said Coach Jones. “And, let me tell you: He's a fearless kid. Danny isn't afraid of anything. He has a very bright future.”
Ryan Fredo and Liam Mountain also contributed to the attack with eight and six points, respectively.
Meanwhile, rounding out the Canaan offense were David Brown (six pts), Nick Antolick (four), David Huges (two), Luke Branning (two) and Adam Sheard (one).