Through the first two weeks of the current winter season, the Grace Christian Academy boys and girls basketball teams have already had their share of ups and downs, although their respective coaches are optimistic the roller coaster ride will end on a high note.
Tuesday evening, the Grace Christian boys (3-2, 1-0 MISAL) defeated Lanham Christian, 64-40, at the Trinity Assembly of God in Lanham in a Metro Independent Schools Athletic League contest behind solid efforts from seniors Josh Jones, Nate Owens, Quinton Butler and Rashid Ellis. It was the second straight victory for the Knights, who edged Saints Peter & Paul of Talbot County, 58-53, in their prior contest Dec. 3 at the Annapolis Area Christian School tournament.
“We have a solid senior group this year,” said Grace head boys basketball coach and athletic director Brian Deschaine. “We also have a good group of juniors. I liked our defensive effort in the second half. We started a little slow, but we played with a lot more defensive intensity in the second half and we attacked the basket on offense.”
Grace opened the season with a 71-49 loss at St. Mary’s of Annapolis then rebounded to edge Grace Brethren Clinton of Prince George’s County, 68-53, before being trounced 84-37 by Annapolis Area Christian. But the Knights’ two-game win streak now will get a serious test when they head to Calvert County to play The Calverton School at 7 tonight, then to the Severn School on Saturday in Anne Arundel County.
“We have a tough stretch of games coming up, but I like the senior leadership of this group,” Deschaine said. “We have guys that can score like Josh, Rashid is an excellent rebounder and Nate is a presence in the middle and Quinton does a lot of things for us. I think this team is capable of doing well in our league.”
While the boys have ample seniors to lean on for poise and points, the Grace girls (3-2, 0-0) graduated two senior starters and then lost a key player, Camille Robinson, to transfer to nearby North Point High School. Robinson was expected to be among the Knights’ leading scorers this season, but now juniors Anastasia Allen, Karleigh Cohen and Ariana Satterthwaite and freshman Katelyn Perrotta will share that burden.
“We’re basically in a rebuilding season,” Grace girls head coach Keith O’Kelly said. “We knew we were going to graduate two starters, but I was really looking forward to having Camille Robinson back. She was going to be a big impact player again, maybe first team all-conference. So, with her now at North Point, we have to rely on our younger girls.”
Grace has won three straight games since opening the season with a pair of losses at the Covenant Life Invitational tournament in Montgomery County on Nov. 18 and 19, which included a 40-38 setback against Carroll County’s Mount Airy Christian in a game O’Kelly thought his girls would prevail. Like the boys, the Knights girls will put their current win streak on the line Friday when they head to Calverton.
“We’re young, but I’ll have all of these girls back again next year,” O’Kelly said. His team’s latest win came Tuesday in a 68-20 victory over Montgomery County’s Barrie School. “We’re rebuilding, but the girls are playing well. Anastasia is a solid player inside and Karleigh and Ariana and Katelynn also learn quickly and have played well. That game against Mount Airy got away from us in the last two minutes. We should have had that one. But when you have a young team, those things happen.”