February 23, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Victory Christian boys basketball team realized a goal it set at the beginning of the season by winning the Alabama Christian Education Athletic Association state tournament.
After never advancing past the semifinals in the past, Victory Christian won the championship Saturday night by beating Eastwood Christian Academy, of Montgomery, Ala., 45-41 at Shelton State Community College.
"We started out at the beginning of the season knowing we had the talent, but it would take a defensive effort (to win the title)," said Victory Christian coach David Johnson. "In this conference we had never made it past the semifinals and we had high hopes.
"We were just ecstatic celebrating. There was a lot of emotion from the guys and even us coaches. It was so surreal to have a dream you had at the beginning of the season come true."
Victory Christian, which finished the season 18-4, made it to the championship game by beating Northside Methodist, of Dothan,Ala., 42-39 in the semifinals Friday.
Victory Christian led Eastwood 28-11 at halftime and had to hold on for the win. The Eagles had their lead cut to 40-28 at the end of the third quarter.
The Eagles were clinging to a 42-41 lead when Justin Puckett made two free throws with 40 seconds remaining and then Keunte Hill stole the ball on back-to-back possessions by Eastwood. Hill closed the scoring with a free throw with seven seconds to play.
"We came out playing crazy good defense," Johnson said. "We played man-to-man defense. That''s all we play. We don''t ever change it up. They made some good adjustments in the second half (to make a game of it)."
Victory Christian was led by Hill with nine points and 13 rebounds, Puckett and Quincy Latham with eight points each, Landon Ellis with seven points and Taylor Robertson with nine rebounds.
In the semifinals against Northside Methodist, Victory Christian scored the final three points of the game after the score was tied 39-39. The Eagles took a 41-39 lead when Ellis came off a screen by Latham and made a layup and closed the scoring on a free throw by Hill.
The Eagles rallied for the win after trailing 23-16 at halftime. They overcame the deficit to lead 35-28 at the end of the third quarter.
Puckett led the Eagles with 16 points, making four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Victory Christian played its first game in the tournament Thursday and beat Chilton Christian 40-28.
"The last two weeks we''ve played some of our best basketball of the year," Johnson said. "It was just time for us."
Victory Christian won the boys basketball title after the school''s football team won the Christian Football Association championship this past November.
"We''ve just got a good group of seniors," Johnson said. "I''ve got nine seniors on this team."