By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published March 6, 2019
AMERICUS—During the Feb. 23 Georgia Independent School Association (GISA) basketball championship at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, the Holy Spirit Preparatory School girls’ team defeated Pinewood Christian Academy of Bellville 47-38.
For third-year coach Paul Belcher, it’s been a steady climb toward the top. In 2017 Holy Spirit lost to Dublin’s Trinity Christian School in the first round. Last year they lost to Pinewood Christian by seven points in the title game.
After losing in 2018, Coach Belcher challenged his upperclassmen like shooting guard Annaleena Hansen, point guards Olivia Tucker and Jonnise Poole, and forward Ashley Postell to go back to the drawing board and work on their fundamentals. Belcher said it was conditioning and fundamentals that got the team back to the championship game.
Holy Spirit applied a tough man-to-man defense, with no switching, to hold their opponents to under 40 points in the championship game.
Freshmen Kristen Roche and Kaela Ward led the way with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Ward’s sister, Kemia, a junior and team captain, also chipped in 12 points. Between the two of them, Kemia and Kaela pulled down 19 of the team’s rebounds.
“In addition to practicing five days per week, the team worked on a lot of skill development and played a very competitive schedule,” said Coach Belcher. It obviously paid off, as the team captured the school’s first GISA, Class AAA state championship for the Lady Cougars.
Holy Spirit finished the season with a record of 26-3.