Doing something for the first time usually means numerous obstacles have to be overcome in order to find success. It’s difficult labeling Wickenburg Christian Academy’s basketball team’s first-ever playoff game a success, but the season was a definite stepping-stone for a squad that featured only two seniors. A foundation for a promising future for the Lions has been laid.
No. 1 ranked Scottsdale Ville de Marie Academy (19-3) raced past the Lions in the quarterfinals and first round of the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division I 2020 State Basketball Championship tournament Feb. 18 in Chandler, 79-37. The score is lopsided, but WCA (8-8) raised eyebrows in the early moments of the first quarter, trailing the Crusaders midway through, 13-11.
“We gave them everything they could handle in that first quarter,” said WCA coach Brad Matney. “We came out and hit them hard, but then their athleticism kind of got us a little bit and they went on about a 12-0 run.
“I couldn’t find enough timeouts in my bag.”
WCA trailed at the end of the first quarter, 28-17, and it was 53-24 at halftime, as the Lions fell victim to the turnover bug, mostly in their passing game.
“We talked about it all week in practice; if you turn the basketball over they’re going down on a run-out,” the coach said. “There’s a reason they are the No. 1 team in the state.”
Though WCA’s energy remained high throughout the game, VDMA was relentless and outscored the Lions 27-13 in the second half to advance to the D-I semifinals. It seemed as though the Crusaders could not miss an outside shot.
“You have to bank on them not getting hot because once they get hot it’s bang, bang, bang,” Matney said. “They just keep hitting them. It’s multiple players, too.”
WCA had two players score in double figures. Sophomore Drake Matney led the way with 14 points, and freshman Mark Blodgett added 10.
“We’ve got three underclassmen in their first year of varsity experience,” coach Matney said. “(VDMA) knew who our scorers were and they ran two, three, four people at them. They are well-coached.”
Sophomore Doc Massey tallied four points, senior Aaron Armstrong dropped in three, and Zion Hintz, James Mack, and Ben Armstrong each had two.
“I’m so proud of the coaches and the kids coming out,” the coach said. “There wasn’t a whole lot expected of us before the season, but here we are playing the state tournament.”
Matney said the Lions had the goal of a winning season when it all began in November. The players were there, and it was up them and the coaching staff to bring it all together. It was rough start for the Lions, opening the 2019-2020 campaign with a five-game losing streak, but they ended the season winning eight of ten, including a six-game win streak.
“They got a little better and got a little better,” Matney said. “The kids started stepping up and doing things I didn’t know they were capable of, and maybe they didn’t know they were capable of.”
WCA has 10 returners expected to be back next season.