Canaan Christian girls claim their ninth championship banner since 2006

If you're seeking a stellar success story on the Wayne County winter sports scene, look no further than Canaan Christian Academy.

Over the course of the past decade or so, CCA's girls basketball program has evolved into a veritable juggernaut at both the local and state levels.

The Lady Eagles have succeeded at every level since 2006 … from JV to varsity and from Class AA to AAA.

With veteran head coach John Ashley at the helm, Canaan has won 15 of 20 games this year and added yet another KCEA state championship to its already dazzling resume.

CCA is one of the truly elite programs in the Commonwealth, having captured a total nine crowns to date.

This one came at the culmination of an exciting weekend at the 2018-19 tournament. There, the local lasses powered posted a perfect record in the AAA bracket en route to the title.

Coach Ashley's squad defeated Walnut Christian (44-29) in the semis and West Chester in the gold medal game (56-54).

“It was an incredible and crazy weekend,” he said with a laugh. “These girls never cease to impress me with their great attitude, incredible spirit and all their hard work.”

Semifinals

Canaan dominated its semifinal encounter with Walnut Street Christian, a team based in Avis.

The Lady Eagles erupted on a 14-0 run to start the game and never looked back en route to a lopsided 44-29 victory.

“We had the privilege of opening it up, playing in the very first game of this year's tournament,” Coach Ashley said. “It was a long ride and I was a little concerned about the girls having 'bus legs,' but I guess I shouldn't have been worried.”

Heather Lamberson got things going with a bucket right off the opening tip and Canaan just rolled from there. Lamberson, who would go on to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team, led the Lady Eagles in this one. She scored a game-high 15 points while also adding six steals and four assists.

Hannah Chapman and Brianna Smith contributed key plays as well.

Chapman muscled her way to a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. Hannah would also be rewarded for her efforts with an All-Tourney spot.

Smith was her usual intimidating presence in the paint, blocking three shots and grabbing 11 rebounds.

CCA enjoyed a double digit lead at the break and then sealed the deal with a 7-0 run late in the third.

Emily Hughes chipped in with six points and eight boards, while Celia Sheard tallied six and and Gracie Sheard netted three.

With this impressive win, the local lasses advanced to the title tilt and a shot at their seventh Class AAA title since 2006.

Gold Medal Game

Canaan's opponent in the AAA championship game would be the host team.

West Chester punched its ticket to the championship with a convincing win over Red Lion and were more than ready for CCA.

The Conquerors had the Lady Eagles on the ropes early, embarking on a 9-0 run and forcing Coach Ashley to burn a timeout.

“I had the girls take a deep breath, re-focus and get back to work,” he said.

And, apparently that's exactly what they needed. While the local lasses still trailed 13-10 at the end of one, they were back on track and back in the hunt.

Lamberson and Smith proved to be a formidable one-two punch in the post.

Heather rattled the rims for a game-high 23 points and also snagged nine boards. Brianna powered her way to an eye-popping 20 rebounds, while also scoring nine points and carding three blocks.

The turning point in this one came late in the third period when Coach Ashley had his girls ratchet up the defensive pressure.

“We were tired, but so were they,” he said. “I told our girls we were going to press them full court the rest of the way … make them work the full 90 feet every possession.”

The strategy worked.

Canaan immediately began forcing turnovers, surged in front and before long had itself a double-digit lead at 46-36.

To their credit, though, the Conquerors staged a furious counterattack. Led by star players Bethany Hoga and Sarah Gingery, West Chester crept closer and closer as time in regulation ticked down.

Hannah Chapman, Emily Hughes and Celia Sheard all came through in the clutch for Canaan.

Chapman ended her day with seven points and 10 rebounds. Hughes added six boards and four assists.

Sheard finished with 13 points and eight boards and rounded out Canaan's All-Tournament trio.

Gracie Hughes rounded out the Lady Eagle scoring with two points.

CCA led by three with 16 seconds left when Chapman was fouled. She hit on 1-of-2 attempts, making it a two possession game. West Chester did tally once more, but Canaan held on for a wild 56-54 win.

“These girls played like champions right down to the final buzzer and I'm wicked proud of them as always,” Coach Ashley said.