Area homeschool basketball team finishes third in nationals
The Summit City Christian Homeschool Academy Blazers (SCCHA) competed in two divisions of the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Tournament (NCHBC) in Springfield March 19 through March 24.
The Blazers' teams are made up of players from southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas.
The 21st annual tournament drew over 350 teams and nearly 4,000 players from all across America and brought over 10,000 people to the Ozarks for the weeklong event. It is the largest event for the City of Springfield and required 27 gyms from around the area to host the games.
The event featured a McDonald's All-American who was the number one female recruit among all high school players. Moriah Jefferson, from Texas, has signed to play at the University of Connecticut next fall. Danrad Knowles, a 6'11" senior from Houston, Texas, will play at the University of Houston next fall. There are many other NCAA Division 1 signees who participated in the tournament, both girls and boys.
The SCCHA Blazers, in their first year, entered two boys' teams for the tournament. Their 16-and-under JV team finished fourth in the their division and the 18-and-under varsity boys took third in their division.
The varsity boys, led by All-Region award winners Josh Steward, of McDowell, and Isaac Waddell, of Aurora, competed in the 18-and-under Small School Division 5A and were faced with friendly rival Northwest Arkansas Hornets, who had beaten the Blazers in their previous four contests.
SCCHA came out and played some of the most tenacious defense they've played all year. The first half was close with the Blazers holding to a 24-21 lead at halftime, but the second half was all Blazers as they held NWA to only four field goals and outscored them 30-19 to finish the game with a 54-40 win.
Steward led all scorers in the game with 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Waddell added the Blazers' first triple-double of the season with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
The NWA win earned the Blazers a place in the tournament's final four. They lost their semi-final matchup and played in the third place game against a fastbreaking team from Lubbock, Texas. The Blazers starters are: Josh Steward, 6'5"; Jason Steward, 6'8"; Cleveland Carr, 6'3"; Waddell, 6'2"; and Ryan Arnold, 5'10."
In the game against Lubbock, height and strength won out as the Blazers controlled the boards and only allowed the Titans a handful of second-chance shots in the game.
Trailing 32-31 at halftime, the Blazers owned the second half and put on another defensive show and outscored Lubbock 35-18 to win 66-50 and capture third place.
Josh Steward entered the game needing only 6 points to reach 1,000 points for the season. He was held to only 5 points in the first quarter and was stuck on 999 at the half. His 13 second-half points allowed him to go over 1,000 and end up with 1,012 points for the year.
SCCHA junior varsity
The JV Blazers finished fourth in their division. Jason Steward averaged a little more than 16 points in the tournament and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team. Isaiah Newman won an All-Tournament Christian Character award for his play.