Overachieving Conquerors reach NCCSA 2A elite eight
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 19, 2014 1:48 PM
WALKERTOWN -- Faith Christian is peaking at the right time.
The youth-ladened Conquerors are no longer concerned about early-season issues such as individual play and struggles to accept specific roles on the team. They've made the adjustments and reached a level veteran coach Jeff Stocks never anticipated.
The Conquerors (16-6 overall) have advanced to the elite eight of the N.C. Christian Schools Association Class 2-A playoffs for the 10th time since 1998. They face nemesis Hilltop Christian on Thursday at Gospel Light Christian School.
Tip-off is 5 p.m.
"When we went to basketball camp this past summer, I knew my best players were sophomores ... we played a lot of ninth-graders last year and just moved them up," Stocks said.
A new addition, senior transfer Vic Jenkins, brought about more adjustments.
Players accustomed to a certain position had to adapt to new roles. Stocks became concerned over the individual play he saw on the court as the issues took some time to solve.
Faith Christian logged a 5-4 worksheet during its first nine games.
"Since then, we've come together as a team, we're better defensively," Stocks said. "We're learning our roles, and who needs to be where (on the court) and take advantage of our speed.
"We're a different basketball team now."
The Conquerors manufacture most of their offense off of their defense. A 1-3-1 trapping scheme showcases Jenkins' ability to quickly cause turnovers, and change the game's tempo
If Jenkins and his teammates are hitting shots, all the better. That puts stress on opposing defenses, who can't sit back in the paint and deny either Jenkins or Richard Sasser on drives to the basket.
Jenkins averages 26 points, 10 rebounds and six steals an outing. Sasser provides 13 points and six assists. Overall, the Conquerors score 63 points and yield 53 points defensively per game.
"We are playing good team basketball right now," Stocks said.
Hilltop, the No. 2 seed from the West, handed Faith Christian three losses during a seven-game stretch in regular-season play. In their previous meetings, the Chargers played a physical game inside and constantly disrupted Faith's attempts to attack the basket.
The Chargers didn't make careless mistakes offensively against Faith's pressure defense, either.
Stocks thinks the fourth meeting could be different. He and his team hope to get a little revenge against Faith Christian alum Bobby Floars, who is Hilltop's head coach.
"He went for a long time with his goal in life to beat me (on the court)," a grinning Stocks said. "I said 'look, you've reached your goal. Can't you take a break now?' I really like Bobby, though, he does a good job.
"They're a senior-dominated team, experienced ... the most complete team I've seen. I think our guys are excited because I they know we're better than we were then (early in the season). We're looking forward the challenge. I know I am."
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