By Randy Arrington
LURAY — There seems to be a lot of basketball talent in Page County this year, and it’s certainly not lacking at Mount Carmel Christian Academy.
MCCA’s varsity girls basketball team finished off a 20-4 season as state runner-up last Saturday in the Virginia Association of Christian Athletics.
“This team is super special… they have always played with heart,” MCCA Athletic Director Hollie Vile said this week. “Ever since that sophomore class was fifth graders, they’ve played together. They have just gelled together.”
The loss in the state championship was to Faith Christian of Roanoke, who touted five starting seniors. Mount Carmel started the title game with two eighth graders, two sophomores and one junior.
“It was the play and effort of the kids, and the fun they have playing together,” head coach Jim Grandtsaff said of the keys to the school’s most successful season in several years. “It’s been a very positive thing for the school.”
A unique blend of talent and hustle led Mount Carmel to its impressive 20-4 record, with only one loss in the district and another coming in the state final. Many times they were the smaller and younger team, but they still found a way to win.
“[Junior] Makenzie Richards was often playing against players much taller than she is,” Coach Grandstaff said of his leading rebounder (averaging eight per game), “but she held her own.”
Lexi Vile led the team in scoring average with 14.8 points per game. Vile was the only All-State first team selection for Mount Camel. However, Richards (10.1 ppg) and sophomore Lexi Hensley (11.5 ppg) were named to the All-State second team.
Hensley was also selected for the All-State tournament team as well, along with eight-grader Emily Donovan, who lead the team in total points (327) this season and averaged 14.2 points per game as their “three-point specialist.”
Hensley, Richards and Vile earned first team All-District and first team All-Region honors. Hensley and Richards were also selected for the All-Region tournament team.
“Throughout the year, this team gelled together and became a dominant force on the court, demonstrating their love for the game as well as for each other,” the school’s athletic director said. “There are so many deserving kids of awards because it takes a team to accomplish what this team has.”
Mount Carmel “borrows” two players off its middle school team to complete a nine-member roster. But while Coach Grandstaff describes Hensley as “our leader” and touts Vile’s hustle and offensive skills — he credits the entire team for what they have accomplished this season.
“We didn’t have two people that you could stop and shut us down,” Grandstaff said. “We had several players that could score.
“The girls were extremely coachable,” he continued. “They listened and applied what they learned… they are just a great group of kids. They play hard, and they don’t give up.”