Faith Christian celebrates state title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 27, 2007 2:22 PM
KERNERSVILLE -- Late-season losses to Liberty Christian-Durham and region rival Falls Road Baptist within a 10-day period didn't shake up the Faith Christian men's basketball team. But each defeat provided a wake-up call.
"I think it helped them realize that it takes offense and defense to win a game," said 13th-year Faith Christian coach Jeff Stocks. "They realized they weren't unbeatable, and I think they might have been looking ahead (past Falls Road), to be honest."
Once the Conquerors entered state tournament play, they became unstoppable. Faith Christian cruised past New Manna in the quarterfinals and turned up the defensive pressure against Piedmont region champion Kerwin Baptist in semifinal-round play.
Six-foot-7 Matt Wooten and his Woodland Baptist teammates awaited the Conquerors in the N.C. Christian Schools Association Class 2-A championship. Wooten presented some defensive problems early, but Faith Christian pulled away for a 55-39 win and claimed its first-ever state title in school history.
Wooten scored six points and controlled the boards as Woodland Baptist staked a 13-10 lead after one quarter. Faith Christian, the three-time Coastal region champion, seized a one-point halftime lead.
"I think it was a lot of nerves," said Stocks of the conservative opening half.
Faith Christian maintained its man-to-man pressure and extended its lead to three points after 24 minutes of action. Meanwhile, Wooten had become a non-issue offensively and managed just two points. Stocks credited Jeremy Sandlin and Blake Plummer, who shared defensive responsibilities on the strong center.
"They did a super job guarding him," said Stocks.
The Conquerors warmed up offensively in the final period. Aaron Sladick, who led all scorers with 18 points, buried a pair of 3-pointers. Taylor Stocks and T.J. Sasser also knocked down a 3-pointer.
Faith Christian outscored Woodland Baptist 18-5 in the final period.
"Once they got down by 10, you see the air let out of them," said Stocks. "Our guys picked it up on the defensive end. I think our man-to-man defense was something they weren't used to seeing.
"Their coach said no one has slowed them down like that before."
When the final horn sounded, Faith Christian's fans rushed from the stands to join the celebration at midcourt. It was Stocks' first basketball crown, but second overall after leading the softball team to the NCCSA 2-A championship last spring.
Sasser added 15 points and picked Woodland for six steals, while Sladick pulled down 13 rebounds. Sandlin (nine rebounds), Stocks (seven assists) and Nathaniel Patel each supplied six points. Austin Webber chipped in four. Sasser received All-Coastal Region honors, while Sladick grabbed a spot on the NCCSA 2-A All-State team.
Major Collier and Seth Spease emerged Woodland's offensive leaders with 15 and 11 points, respectively. Wooten finished with eight points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots.
"We've been averaging close to 72 points a game and we've been outscoring other teams more instead of stopping them from scoring," said coach Stocks. "I guess they decided championships are won by defense and they stepped up their defense.
"That was a key all weekend."
The five seniors - Sladick, Sasser, Patel, Plummer and Allen Ray Darby - compiled a sterling 73-11 record during their varsity career. Also included on their impressive prep resumes are a current 21-game home win streak, three consecutive Coastal Region titles and two NCCSA final four appearances within the last three seasons.
Faith Christian was favored to win the state title a year ago, but got upset in the early stages of the playoffs. Stocks felt his team could make another run.
"I knew with the guys coming back, we could at least get to the state again," said Stocks. "I didn't know if we could win it, but I thought we'd have a chance to play for it.
"The guys have worked in the gym all summer. This has been their goal for two years."
2007 N.C. Christian
Schools Association Class 2-A
Men's Basketball Championship
(at Kerwin Baptist, Kernersville)
Faith Christian 11 13 13 18 -- 55
Woodland Baptist 13 10 11 5 -- 39
FAITH CHRISTIAN (25-3)
Aaron Sladick 18, T.J. Sasser 15, Nathaniel Patel 6, Taylor Stocks 6, Jeremy Sandlin 6, Austin Webber 4.
WOODLAND BAPTIST (19-8)
Major Collier 15, Seth Spease 11, Matt Wooten 8, Jonathan Bottoms 3, Jeremy Boles 2.
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