You couldn’t write a better story for the Christ Episcopal School girls basketball team in 2017-2018.
In its first year of existence, the Wildcat team went 16-9, capturing the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division V state championship.
This season, the question for Wildcats coach Stephen Griffin is what can he and the team do for an encore?
“We validated our process with our success a season ago,” Griffin said. “It proved what we do works. It’s been really exciting to just keep doing the same thing with the same goals. Last season was great, but it hasn’t lessened our desire to do it again this year.
“There is no complacency on this team. That’s because we only return three girls from last year on this roster. Everything we did last year was centered around Gabby Leahy. It was a shooting guard that we turned into a point guard. Now, heading into this season, everything we are doing is different. It’s a whole new system that features eight seventh- and eighth-graders on the varsity roster.”
Leahy leaves a big whole for the Wildcats. The first-team All-State guard averaged 21 points, five rebounds and five assists last year, including scoring 19 points in the fourth quarter of the state championship game against Claiborne Christian.
“Lost to many in Gabby’s exploits were the exploits of some of the other players from last season," Griffin said. "Quincy Downing averaged a double-double last year. Sydney Schultz scored 30 points in the state semifinals to get us to the state championship game.
"Both of those players are back. The offense is going to shift to a point forward kind of style now with the ball in Quincy’s hands. So there are going to be a lot of things that are different," he said.
Last season, Downing averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds a contest, and Schultz averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds a game.
“Quincy and Sydney this season don’t only need to carry their weight, but they have to find a way to make the players around them better,” Griffin said of his two returning starters.
“We are running more things where everyone has to make a decision now. That makes things more difficult. Everyone is going to have the ball in their hands. It is going to take us awhile to get where we want to be, but this season is going to be much less of a singular focus (Leahy).”
Some of those new faces include a pair of seventh-grade twins — Katelin and Kristin Schneider.
“One is left-handed, and one is right-handed,” Griffin said of the duo. “Great basketball intelligence with great skills, and just fast. The same really holds true for eighth-grader Eleanor Quinlan. The speed that they bring allows us to do many more things in the full court. We will be a significantly faster team than we were last season.
“Sydney’s sister, Samantha Schultz, is our most athletic player from a combination of speed and strength. Samantha Dugan brings strength and toughness, too. Grace Seghers gives us some size, too, and is a returning starter. Macy Shoemake is raw and a member of the volleyball team that gives us some athleticism as well.”
Overall, Griffin said he likes his team’s chances for success for the season, which began on Nov. 9 on the road against Grand Isle.
“I like where we have the chance to be,” Griffin said. “I love what we could be.”