The building blocks are being placed one at a time as the Columbus Christian girls basketball program finds its way.
Pastor Ron Bridgewater knows that his program is a work in progress, so he keeps a sense of humor as the head coach.
Bridgewater, who has coached youth basketball for 20 years, was asked if it was easier coaching boys or girls.
“I guess the humorous answer would be that God gave me sons for a reason,” Bridgewater said with a laugh. “But really, they aren’t that different.”
While Bridgewater has experience coaching kids to play basketball, last season was his first one as a head varsity coach at the high school level. Columbus Christian hadn’t had a girls basketball program for eight years, and Bridgewater noticed there were a lot of girls in the gym shooting around with the boy basketball players.
Columbus Christian Crusaders
Coach: Ron Bridgewater
record LAST SEASON: 8-9
Key returning players: 5-7 sophomore Rachel Warren, 5-1 sophomore Hannah Carlock, 5-7 senior Emily Price, 5-7 freshman Tori Robinson, 5-3 sophomore Kassi Alden
Key reserves: 5-4 sophomore Julie Decker, 5-2 eighth-grader Jena Fryback, 5-8 sophomore Kalee Taylor, 5-foot seventh-grader Kyla Foley, 5-2 eighth-grader Courtney Sample
“There was some talent out there,” he said. “I thought, ‘These girls want to play. They want to compete.’”
So the program was reinstated, and Bridgewater guided his team to an 8-9 record. “I was pretty pleased where we landed,” he said.
Now in the second year of its rebirth, Columbus Christian has all of its starters back from last season.
“We are looking to improve on our 8-9 record,” Bridgewater said. “I think we will. We have all five starters returning and only one senior. Our core group of players are sophomores.
“Already our fundamentals are much more solid. Last year, if I didn’t tell them what to do, they didn’t do it.”
This year’s Crusaders are less robotic. Instead of having to think about each move, they are starting to react to situations on the floor. Being involved in the program, the players now study and watch more basketball in their off time. It all means that they are able to read plays and adjust to the opposition.
Leading the returning starters is sophomore Rachel Warren, the team’s best shooter.
“I wish I could shoot like Rachel,” Bridgewater said. “And she just loves the game. Whatever I ask her to do, she will give her best.”
While Warren, at 5-foot-7, fits well as forward for the Crusaders, she is one of the team’s best ball-handlers and sometimes is forced into duty at guard.
Point guard Hannah Carlock, a 5-foot-1 sophomore, returns after leading the team in assists last year.
“She is gritty and tough,” Bridgewater said. “She doesn’t back down, and she plays with attitude. She is our best passer.”
Emily Price is a 5-7 forward and the team’s only senior.
“She is a great rebounder,” Bridgewater said. “She also can step outside and hit a jumper. She plays hard, and she is very physical.”
The team’s center is 5-7 freshman Tori Robinson.
“Man, she will run through a brick wall for you,” Bridgewater said. “Against Southside Christian last week, she had 15 points, 13 rebounds, 11 steals and five blocks. She was everywhere. She doesn’t quit. She just goes and goes.”
The returning off-guard is Kassi Alden, a 5-3 sophomore.
“She’s got a nice shot and she can drive to the basket,” Bridgewater said. “She also has been our best free-throw shooter.”
Adding depth to the program are 5-4 sophomore Julie Decker, 5-2 eighth-grader Jena Fryback, 5-8 sophomore Kalee Taylor, 5-foot seventh-grader Kyla Foley and 5-2 eighth-grader Courtney Sample.
“The biggest thing for us is building this program underneath the varsity level,” said Bridgewater, adding that Columbus Christian has started a girls elementary program as well.