Believing has been the key for the Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach boys basketball program.
Merely 6 years old, the program claimed its fourth SCISA Class A state championship on Saturday with a 51-42 victory over Laurens Academy at the Sumter Civic Center.
The Saints topped the Crusaders in the state final for the second time. The first came in Christian Academy’s first year of existence.
This time around Laurens Academy was up against a school with an already rich tradition thanks to players believing in coach Darren Gore’s system.
“When we started our program back a few years ago, we had some good kids who hung around who didn’t leave to go to the public schools,” Gore said. “That’s allowed us to build our program.”
Trailing 13-9 after a quarter, Christian Academy claimed control of the contest in the second, outscoring the Crusaders 18-6 in the frame. The run was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers by Matt Doria that gave the Saints the lead.
“He had a couple big 3s when it was tight,” Gore said. “He helped kind of break it open for us.”
The Saints were in control from there, with standout Kendall Henry leading the way. The senior had 16 points and 16 rebounds, ending his career as Christian Academy’s all-time leading scorer with over 1,500 points. It was Henry’s 21 double-double this season.
“Wow,” Gore said about Henry’s importance to the program. “He’s just a great kid who has worked hard every year and has gotten better every year. … He’s going to help out whatever college team picks him up.”
The Saints’ pressure man-to-man defense harassed the Crusaders, leading to turnovers and easy baskets.
“They’re a very good shooting team,” Gore said. “We turned up the defense in the second quarter, got the jitters out. We got transition baskets and were able to get the lead at halftime. Our defense kind of [made] them take a lot of more difficult shots than they were used to and we were able to stretch it out from there.”
Christian Academy loses two starters in Henry and Max Smith, but return several key contributors.
It will be up to the rest – and newcomers – to continue to build upon the program’s legacy.
Based on fanfare, it appears the program has garnered plenty of support. Gore said there were about 250 Christian Academy fans at the Sumter Civic Center on Saturday, giving the Saints a homecourt feel.
“They were a big part of us winning for sure,” he said.