Slow start, fast finish: CAK girls 1-A champs

KNOXVILLE — Having a roster filled with juniors, and no seniors, winning a district tournament title was especially sweet for Abby Williams, Christian Academy of Knoxville girls basketball head coach.

Regular season District 1 co-champs with rival Lakeway Christian Academy in Division II-A, yet the No. 2 seed because of losing a coin toss, CAK overcame a slow start on its home court— trailing 12-5 — and beat Lakeway 63-57 Saturday night, Feb. 12.

“Lakeway’s our big rival. We’ve had to work really hard to get where we are right now,” said CAK post/wing Keira Leffew, tournament MVP who scored 20. “We’ve learned to play ‘we ball’ over ‘me ball,’ and that’s kind of been our struggle.

“But tonight we really locked in, we moved the ball well and we hit some big shots at some big times,” she added.

“Big tournament for her,” Williams said about Leffew “… She’s averaging a double-double for us … right around 13 points and 10 rebounds, (almost) three assists and a block (per game); leading us in every statistical category.

“It may not be 25 points every night, but it’s consistently getting on the boards, sharing the basketball, seeing the assists, deflecting balls, getting steals,” the coach added. “… And kind of being a floor general for us if she’s inside or she’s outside.”

Another All-tourney Lady Warrior, point guard Madi Jones (15 points Saturday after leading the team with 23 in CAK’s semifinal win), “was tasked with having to guard Madi Hawk — a Miss Basketball Finalist — and I thought (Jones) did a great job frustrating her, getting her out of her comfort zone,” Williams said.

About CAK wing Emily Wilson, also an All-tourney selection who scored a game-high 23 points, Williams said, “You talk about a girl stepping up and hitting big shots when we needed big shots.” (She has) a little swagger about herself that we like.

“I’ve been shooting really good from three this year,” Wilson said. “I just thank my teammates for finding me and getting me the ball.”

About overcoming the slow start, “They just kept battling,” Williams said about her team. “We knew this game was going to be a game of runs.

“… We weren’t getting back defensively, they were getting easy looks, so I had to call that timeout and say, ‘You’ve got to be willing to play defense,’ and they did,” she added. “… And nerves, just playing in a district championship game.”

Half of the Lady Lions’ losses this season (28-4) have come versus CAK, as the Lady Warriors (22-7) headed into this week’s region play, where state tourney teams will emerge.

Photo courtesy of Jake Mealey