New Hope Christian girls pave road to success
If the New Hope Christian Academy girls basketball team desired, it could alter the title of a popular classic TV show and make it its own.
“Have Team, Will Travel.”
Actually, the Phoenix would need to add two more words to make that moniker truly accurate.
New Hope has seen lots of our great nation so far this season en route to a sterling 21-1 record. The academy with approximately 100 students based in Thomasville owns five wins in Atlanta, three wins in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as victories in Richmond, Va., Charlottesville, Va., Amelia Court House, Va. and several cities across N.C.
“We log lots of miles in vans and buses,” New Hope head coach Delaney Rudd says with a chuckle. “All that time traveling together has helped the girls get to know each other better and it’s been a big help in building chemistry and team unity.”
Rudd, in his second season at the NHCA helm, starred at Wake Forest from 1981-85 and enjoyed a 15-year pro career with stints with the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers as well as three CBA teams and two squads in France.
He likes what he sees from his Phoenix.
“We have 12 players and they’re all talented,” Rudd says. “They push each other in practice and they’ve bought into the concept that it can be better to score eight points and play a solid all-around game than to score 18 and struggle in other phases.
“We like to play pressure defense and push the tempo when we can. That requires unselfish team play.”
The Phoenix usually start senior point guard Sarah Beal (a Providence signee) at point guard, plus underclassmen Celeste Burgess, Katherine Harris, Paris Johnson and Kristina King.
New Hope also gets major contributions from Lucky Rudd, Greta Pileckaite, Marija Pacar, Kiana Bowe, Aryn Tarver, Sonna Sidibe and Breahanda Stratton.
“I like the fact that we’ve had several different leading scorers in games this season,” Rudd says.
That balance has helped the Phoenix earn a No. 14 rating in the latest ESPN National Power Rankings as well as the No. 1 ranking in the state of North Carolina by Max Preps. The Phoenix are ranked 23rd nationally by Max Preps.
New Hope went 31-5 and finished fourth in the elite division of the National Association of Christian Athletes national tournament last season.
The Phoenix aim to do even better in this season’s 12-team elite division national tournament, set for Feb. 26-March 1 in Dayton, Tenn.
But first, there are trips to Rabun Gap, Ga., Charlottesville, Va. and Washington, D.C. for games.
“We’re not in a conference, so as an independent we often need to get invited to play in tournaments,” Rudd points out. “So we feel good when we’re invited to play in prestigious tournaments across the country.”
The Phoenix hope the good feelings, and great results, keep rolling.