Thursday, May 7, 2015

All Three Crusader Crusader Teams Clinch a Spot in the Playoffs

The Harrells Christian Academy baseball, women’s soccer, and softball teams all took care of business in the regular season to gain a spot in the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs.

The Varsity Baseball team enters the state playoffs as a #4 seed and will take on Calvary Baptist on Thursday, May 7th at home. The grudge match is set to begin at 4:30. The Varsity baseball team closed out the regular season with a loss to Parrott Academy in the regular season conference championship game. The Crusaders came up just shy of claiming their third conference title in three years. The Patriots overcame an 3-2 lead after some late inning heroics which led to a 4-3 victory over the Crusaders. The Crusaders have been solid across the diamond led by explosive offense at the plate. Out of the 17 man roster 6 players are batting over .400 and 8 players are batting over .300. Chance Bryant, a standout sophomore from Elizabethtown, is sporting an incredible .525 batting average on the season. The Crusaders are not only swinging the bat with confidence but they are also shutting it down when they toe the pitching rubber. The 8 man squad that shares pitching duties has kept earns runs to a minimum by posting a 2.71 combined era on the year. The Crusader pitching rotation is led by senior Mike Smith who has posted a 5-1 record to go along side 35 innings pitched in eight starts. The senior has also recorded 39 strikeouts on the year contributing to the teams 114 total strike outs. The Diamond Crusaders will look to make a deep run in the playoffs again this year. The Crusaders came up just shy last year by losing to Westchester Country Day School in the state championship series.

The Varsity Women’s Soccer team enters the state playoffs as a #5 seed forcing them to play a first round game against the #12 seeded Gaston Day on Friday, May 8th— Weather permitting. The Lady Crusaders closed out the regular season with a huge 4-0 victory over Coastal Christian to claim their spot as Coastal Rivers Conference Regular Season Runner-up. The closed out the regular season with a record of 12-3-1. The Crusaders exhibit talent all across the pitch. Four HCA players received all conference honors including senior Margaret Clark, senior Natalie Hardin, junior Haley Bowles, and sophomore goalie Emily Benton. Among accolades on the state level senior Margaret Clark and junior Haley Bowles received all state honors. The Lady Crusaders will look to continue their success as they prepare to make a run at a state championship.

The Varsity softball team enters the state playoffs as a #2 seed and will start their playoff run on Tuesday, May 12th at home against Concord First Assembly. The Crusaders closed out the regular season with 8-4 record. The Crusaders clinched a share of the Coastal Rivers Conference Regular Season Title after defeating rival Parrott Academy 12-4. HCA battled back after an early 4-0 deficit to eventually take a demanding lead and a share of a conference title. The Lady Crusaders will look to claim their third state championship title in three years as they make their run in the playoffs. The Crusaders have never been granted a #1 seed even when they have won a state title the past two years— So could the Lady Crusaders 3-peat? Only time will tell!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Varsity Women's Soccer Team Comes Together to Benefit Pigford Family

The Varsity Women's soccer team put on a spaghetti dinner at HCA Wednesday, March 11th. The Lady Crusaders came together to benefit the Pigford family who recently lost their home to a house fire. The team raised over $4,000 that will go to help the Pigford family. 

Anna Pigford is a member of the HCA soccer team her "HCA Family" wanted to do something to help out. Senior soccer player, Margaret Clark stated, "On behalf of the soccer team, I would like to thank everyone who helped, donated, or participated in our spaghetti dinner to raise money for the Pigford family tonight! God is so good and collectively we raised over $4,000! Words can't describe how blessed we are that we were presented with the opportunity to help not only a member of our school, but also a member of our soccer family. Thank you to everyone who came out and made it the success it was!!!"

The soccer team has also been working hard as a "family" on the field as well. the Crusaders are off to a 3-0 start and will look to continue their success and vie for a state championship in May.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Varsity Women's Basketball Season Wrap Up

Don't Judge a Book by it's  Cover

The Varsity Women's Basketball team shattered all preseason expectations for the 2014-15 season. Before the beginning of the season, many people believed that the Lady Crusaders would struggle throughout the season and not be able to compete in conference play. Despite the negative preseason buzz the Lady Crusaders played with heart all throughout the season and finished with a 16-5 record.

Crusader players celebrate after a close victory over Cape Fear Academy.
The Crusaders dominated throughout the first part of the season by winning nine out of their first ten games. The Ladies' success did not slow down once conference play heated up. Conference play, however did bring tougher competition that challenged the Crusaders. HCA's second loss of the season came in a heartbreaking, 46-42, loss at Fayetteville Christian. The Lady Crusaders bounced back by winning their next five games including a 44-39 victory over Fayetteville Christian. The Crusaders closed out the regular season with a loss on senior night to the Fayetteville Academy Eagles. HCA sought out revenge on the Eagles by defeating them 32-27 in the semifinals of the Coastal Rivers Conference Tournament. After the Lady Crusaders' exhilarating win over the Eagles, HCA was outmatched by a familiar foe, Fayetteville Christian, in the conference tournament championship game.

The Lady Crusaders went on to earn the #11 seed in the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs where they faced off against the #6 seeded Asheville Christian Academy. HCA came up short against the Lions ending their season early.

Despite the team's loss early in the playoffs, the Lady Crusaders claimed the title of the Coastal Rivers Conference Regular Season Runners-up as well as the Coastal Rivers Conference Tournament Runners-up.

Margaret Clark rises up for a layup.
The Crusaders were led all year by sophomore Emily Benton who averaged just under 14 points per game. Senior Margaret Clark improved her game throughout the year by contributing on the offensive end with 10 points per game. As a team the Crusaders averaged scoring 41 points per game. The Crusaders had many players receive honors throughout the season. Emily Benton, Margaret Clark, Natalie Hardin, and Mikaela Stroud were named to the Coastal Rivers Conference All-Conference Team. Emily Benton and Mikaela Stroud were also named to the Coastal Rivers Conference All-Tournament Team.

The Lady Crusaders will look to replace many key seniors ( Jessi-Kate Batts, Margaret Clark, Rylie Evans, Natalie Hardin, and Ashley Usher) next year as they hope to contend for a conference title as well as a bid into the NCISAA State Playoffs. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Varsity Men's Basketball Season Wrap-up

Quate Mckinzie rises above the rim in the Crusaders'
season opener against Carolina Friends School.
The Harrells Christian Academy Varsity Men's basketball lived up to all of the preseason hype in the 2014-15 season. The Varsity Men dominated throughout the majority of the year and closed out the season with a 20-5 record.

The Crusaders started out the season on a rampage by defeating their first three opponents by an average of just under 27 points. The Crusaders' momentum was quickly halted when they lost to a sharpshooting Cary Christian team who defeated the Crusaders 57-55 in a close back and forth battle.

The Crusaders did not let the close loss phase them, however as they came back and cruised to victory in their next game by defeating, conference opponent, Arendell Parrott Academy 60-54.

Following the team's win over Parrott Academy the Varsity Men faced one of their biggest tests of the regular season. The Crusaders faced off against Freedom Christian at home. The star studded Patriots featured many talented athletes that eventually outmatched the Crusaders in the end handing them their second loss of the season, 70-64.

The Crusaders went on to win another game before yet another tough regular season test. The Crusaders took on, at the time, undefeated West Brunswick High School in the Cape Fear Academy Holiday Invitational. The Crusaders dropped a 63-61 heartbreaker to the Trojans. The Crusaders used the close loss as momentum heading into the rest of the season.

After the loss to the Trojans the Crusaders went on a 15 game winning streak that thrived during conference play, the conference tournament, and into the opening rounds of the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs. During the Crusaders' streak they claimed the Coastal Rivers Conference Regular Season Title with an undefeated regular season conference record of 10-0. The Crusaders also cruised through the conference tournament that was capped off with a 77-38 victory over Fayetteville Christian in the championship game of the Coastal Rivers Conference Tournament. 

The Crusaders headed into the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs as a #12 seed where they faced off against the #5 seeded Freedom Christian. HCA pulled away from the Patriots in the closing stages of a grudge match to clinch the 62-51 victory. 
The Varsity Men's basketball team celebrates with fans after
their 11 point victory over Freedom Christian.

The Crusaders then traveled to Asheville to take on, rival, Davidson Day in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. The Crusaders trailed for the majority of the game but edged their way back in the closing minutes of regulation to force not one but two overtimes. The Crusaders went on to defeat the Patriots 65-60 in double overtime to advance to the Final Four of the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs.

In the Final Four, the Crusaders faced off against the #1 seeded Northside Christian Academy. The Knights took control from the outset of the game by pressuring the Crusaders which led to easy layups on the offensive end. The Knights' main weapon, however was their three point shooting abilities. They were on fire from behind the arc which led to an easy 83-56 win over the Crusaders.

Despite their loss to Northside, the varsity men's basketball team made school history by appearing in back to back Final Fours of the NCISAA State Playoffs in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.

Sophomore point guard Tyshii Scarborough served as the glue
to the Crusader offensive attack all year.
The Crusaders created a balanced scoring attack all year that resulted in three players who averaged scoring in double figures. The Crusaders were led by Quate Mckinzie who averaged just under 17 points per game. Among other high scoring Crusaders were, sharpshooter, CJ Kirchoff who averaged 12 points per game along with Marcus Scarborough who averaged 11 points per game. The Crusader offense was held together all year by sophomore point guard, Tyshii Scarborough. Scarborough ranked sixth in the state of North Carolina in assists per game with 7. 

Many Crusader players received honors throughout the season. Spencer Cooke, CJ Kirchoff, Quate Mckinzie, Marcus Scarborough, and Tyshii Scarborough were all named to the Coastal Rivers Conference All-Conference Team. CJ Kirchoff, Quate Mckinzie, Marcus Scarborough, and Tyshii Scarborough were also named to the Coastal Rivers Conference All-Tournament Team. Quate Mckinzie was named the Coastal Rivers Conference Player of the year as well as being named to the NCISAA Division II All-State Team. Seventh year head coach, Clayton Hall, was named the Coastal Rivers Conference Coach of the Year.

Looking forward to the 2015-16 season, the Varsity Men will look to vie for a State Championship as the Crusaders only lose four seniors in Spencer Cooke, Tristan Crumpler, Evan Hardison, and Justin Smith. Next year, the Crusaders will be under the leadership of their three leading scorers in the 2014-15 season- Quate Mckinzie (16), CJ Kirchoff (12), and Marcus Scarborough (11). HCA will look to put all of these intangibles together to contend for a State Championship in the 2015-16 season.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Natalie Hardin Becomes 4th HCA Athlete to be Named "Star Athlete of the Week"

For 17-year-old Harrells Christian Academy senior Natalie Hardin, sports is something that she has loved to play for years.

“I like all sports,” the three-sport (basketball, soccer and volleyball) Crusader star said Wednesday. “I am currently playing basketball (at point guard) and we have really gelled this season ... we are really close.”

The team, coached by Wayne Cannady, played in the state playoffs during one of the coldest weeks in Sampson County in the last decade.

“It is exciting to be 16-4 right now,” she said. “We lost a lot of our seniors coming into this year and no one really expected us to play this well because we basically have a whole new starting line-up. We are very close as a team and everyone is working hard and having a good time.”

When told she has been named this week’s Performance Auto/Sampson Weekly Star Athlete of the Week, Hardin said she was stunned.

“I ... really ... I am just really surprised by this,” she said. “I really didn’t even know I was nominated for this. I will tell you, it makes me feel pretty good to know that someone is looking out for me and thinking that I am worthy of this award.”

Hardin, who lives in Elizabethtown with her parents, Wilt and Tracy, as well as two younger sisters, Ashley and Heather, said she transferred to Harrells just two years ago.

“To be honest, it has been one of the best experiences of my life,” she admitted. “As soon as I came here
to Harrells, the people here made me feel like I have been here for years. You know, you see the teachers here sacrificing their time to help students, including me. They come in early and stay late to help you ... the coaches here do the same. When you have supportive people like that around you, it helps you grow, not just as a player, but as a person as well.”

Which is why her final year at Harrells will be bittersweet.

“I feel like I am going to do well,” she said. “But I know that I am going to miss my family (when I am away at college) and that makes me feel sad. I am going to miss my Harrells family too. We are all really close- knit at this school and I love being around everyone here because everyone has been so good to me. I am going to miss my close friends and I know that we will be friends forever, but we will be going our separate ways and will never be as close as we are now ... that is going to be sad. I am going to try and do what my mother told me, to just enjoy everything that I can in these final months.”

Hardin began playing recreational sports when she was about 4-years-old. “I played recreation ball and then played in middle school as well,” she explained. “In volleyball I played outside hitter; in basketball I play point guard, and in soccer, I play midfielder. If I had to pick a favorite, I would say it would be soccer.”

Why soccer?

“I don’t know why, really,” she admits. “I think because it just comes natural to me to play soccer. I have to work hard to play basketball and volleyball. I have always loved to play soccer because it just comes
naturally to me.”

Hardin is also working hard in the classroom. The straight ‘A’ student says she wants to go to college.
“Right now, I am undecided on what college I want to go to,” she admits, “but I want to double major in media/communications and Spanish. I like to talk to people and I would love to get into sports broadcasting at some point.”

Despite her talent in three-sports, Hardin said that she wants to concentrate on her studies while at college.
“I will stay active,” she explains, “I will probably get involved with intramural athletics while I am there. But really I want to focus on my studies while I am there.”

In 10 years, Hardin said her dream is that she hopes to have a successful career and to be happy.
“I want to be financially stable,” she said. “I hope that I will have a family by then too ... I just really hope that whatever I am doing, I have a happy home.”

She continues, “My parents instilled a great work ethic in me and I think playing sports helps because you have to work hard and when you are out there, you have to do it. You have to work hard to do well in life ... My mother has always told me to just go out there and be the best that you can be. That is all you can do.”

For right now, she is doing just that.

Although she doesn’t get much free time - with school, practices, games and homework- Hardin averages about 15 hour days working and practicing.

“I have long days,” she says with a laugh. “I put in a lot of work ... But when I do get free time, which is very rare, I like to hang out with my friends ... but to be honest, I really don’t have a lot of free time.”

When asked if she has any advice for any upcoming student/athletes, Hardin said she has some really good advice. “You have to be confident in yourself. You have to remember that just because you are a freshman or you are younger, you are just as important as anyone else and you have every right to be where you are. You just have to believe in yourself.”

Hardin said that all of her successes can be attributed to the people who have surrounded her with their love and support.

“My mom and dad have always been there for me,” she said. “All of my family members have been there for me and I just want to thank them all for that. I would like to thank all of my coaches who took the time with me to push me to do well. Especially Mr. Cannady for believing in me and taking the time to help me and guide me into being a better player and person.” 

All credit for this article goes to the Sampson Weekly

Other Crusader Athletes to be named the Sampson Weekly Performance Auto Star Athlete of the Week include OH Rouse, Ashley Usher, and Andrew Miller

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Varsity Men Take Down Freedom Christian in Opening Round of State Playoffs

The Varsity Men's Basketball team celebrates with fans after the game.
The Varsity Men's basketball team traveled to Fayetteville Friday, February 20 to take on Freedom Christian in the opening round of the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs. The Crusaders defeated the Patriots 62-51 in a back and forth affair.

The Patriots jumped out to a quick start by outscoring the Crusaders 10-3 in the first five minutes of the first quarter. The Crusaders could not get any shots to fall. Under the leadership of senior Spencer Cooke, the Crusaders were able to battle back and cut the Patriot lead to 13-12 heading into the second quarter. The Crusaders continued their momentum in the second quarter behind CJ Kirchoff who was on fire from three point range after a slow start. The Crusaders' great ball movement enabled Kirchoff to drain a couple three pointers from his "sweet spot" in the corner which eventually led to a Patriot timeout after the Crusaders extended their lead to 22-15 with 3:40 left to play in the half. The Crusaders held Freedom to just seven points in the second quarter and headed into the half with a 27-20 lead over the Patriots. In the midst of one of the Crusaders' star players, Quate Mckinzie, only being able to record two points in the first half the Crusaders had to look for other scoring options. CJ Kirchoff stepped up for the Crusaders by scoring 11 points. Spencer Cooke also contributed 9 points heading into the half.

The Crusaders started the second half with the ball and began to pull away but the Patriots did not stay down for long. Freedom forced multiple turnovers which led to easy fast break buckets at the other end. The Crusaders headed into the final quarter of play with a slender 40-38 lead. After a couple of traded baskets by both teams the Crusaders gained some momentum after a made three pointer by CJ Kirchoff which was followed by a slam dunk by Quate Mckinzie who came alive in the second half. The Patriots continued to fight but could not cut the Crusader lead below five points for the remainder of the game. The Crusaders closed out the game fittingly with yet another slam by Quate Mckinzie and finally a made three pointer by CJ Kirchoff with 50 second left to play. In the midsts of Crusader fans on their feet roaring, the final buzzer sounded to clinch the Crusader 62-51 victory over the #5 seeded Freedom Christian Academy Patriots.

CJ Kirchoff led the Crusader scoring attack with 17 points. Kirchoff coined multiple timely three pointers throughout the game that swung the momentum back into the Crusaders favor. After a slow first half, Qaute Mckinzie fought through triple teams in the second half to finish with 16 points on the night. Marcus Scarborough penetrated into the lane all night and drained a couple clutch three pointers to finish the game with 10 points.

With the Crusaders' 11 point victory over Freedom Christian the Varsity Men improved to 19-4 on the season. The Crusaders will travel to Asheville next Thursday, February 26 to take on Davidson Day in the second round of the NCISAA Division II State Playoffs.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Andrew "Joey" Miller Joins Slate of Crusader Athletes to be Named "Star Athlete of the Week"

Being a sports lover is something that comes easy to Harrells Christian Academy senior Andrew Miller.

If you have followed Crusaders over the last two years, you have seen Miller’s work in newspapers - including The Sampson Weekly - read his blogs and also followed his scoring summaries on Twitter.

If you are a fan of Harrells Christian Academy Athletics, Miller, who is officially called HCA’s Director of Sports Communications, is one of the unsung heroes of the school.

Hero is too strong of a word, says the humble 17-year-old. “Well I just kind of jumped into it,” he said. “I started the Twitter page to keep people informed on how we are doing. Our teams (especially football) have to travel to Charlotte and some people just can’t get there. So I started the Twitter page, just thinking I may have about 100 people –maybe -but it turned out a lot of people have been following it.”

In fact, Harrells Twitter page has 400-plus followers.

If you have been to any of the Crusader home games, it is Miller’s voice you hear announcing the starting line-ups for the teams.

“I try to make it a big production,” he says. “With basketball, we try and do intro videos for the boys and girls. We try and make it into a major production.”

So impressed with his hard work and effort, officials from Harrells Christian Academy nominated Miller for this week’s Performance Auto/Sampson Weekly Star Athlete of the Week.

When told of the honor, Miller says he is stunned.

“I had no idea,” he admits. “I am just the guy who writes the articles ... I am really surprised; I just had no idea. To know that someone has nominated me for this, it makes me feel really good.”

“It is a lot of work and a lot of late nights,” he admits. “But when you are walking the hallways and players say they read your work or liked what you wrote about them, it means a lot. To know that they appreciate what you do ... that means everything. It makes it all worth it.”

The behind-the-scenes work that Miller puts in is something that keeps him focused too.
“It really pushes me to another level,” he admits. “I have to meet deadlines and get things done in order. For me, it really balances everything out.”

Born to Sandy and Gregory Miller, Andrew grew up living in Burgaw. He also has an older brother, Nathan, who is a senior at N.C. State University.

“I have always been around sports,” Miller said. “We have always had season tickets to N.C. State football and basketball games and I get a lot of my ideas from them and the way that their media department handles those teams with the production. I have just always loved sports. When my brother played at Harrells, I was water boy. In fact, if you look back at some of the old pictures (from Harrells) you can see a kid in a white shirt on the sidelines with the water (laughs) ... that is me. So, I have always been around it.”
Ironically, for someone who loves football, Miller was told he would never be able to play it.

“I was born with an enlarged heart,” he explains. “So, I was told that I would never be able to participate in playing the game. I grew up knowing that. But I did play JV basketball and I love playing baseball, which I will play again this year. Our baseball team made it to the state championships last year and lost in a 3-game series. But this year, we are going to have a good team too. So hopefully we will be vying for the state title this year.”

But don’t let him fool you, Miller noted that his senior year is going to be a bittersweet one for him. In that, he is trying to savor every last moment to enjoy his final year of school.

“You know, some days I think that I am ready for the year to end,” he said, “but then I think how hard it is going to be. I was just thinking that the basketball team is in the playoffs and to think that this will be the last time that I will be announcing the starting line-ups at the game for them - It is going to be hard.”

Although his parents are CPA’s and his brother is going to school for accounting as well, Miller, who has already been accepted to Campbell University and UNC-W (he will hear back from N.C. State in March), said that he is going to college for Communications.
“I want to start to make connections and just have the opportunity to get my foot in the door,” Miller said. “That is what I want to do for a career – something in professional sports media. That is my dream. I am hoping to start working with one sports team and to just go from there.”

He has already started showing that professionalism when he gets behind the microphone to introduce players at Crusader games.

“I like to get dressed up for the games,” he explained. “I wear a blazer and a tie to the games. It makes it more professional. When you do that and carry yourself a certain way (professionally) it shows respect for what you are doing and, really, for yourself.”

One group that Miller is very aware of is the younger students at Harrells.

“It is important for me to give back to this school and my community because of the kids,” he said. “I am 6 foot 2 inches and if I see a kid I will say ‘hi’ or give them a high-five because every kid wants to feel included. We all do.”

When asked what he will miss most about Harrells Christian Academy, Miller said that it is hard to put into words.

“Always be thankful for opportunities that you are blessed with,” he said without hesitation. “When you get it, take advantage of it. Look at me, I was told sports wasn’t an option when I was little and I turned it around and made it so I can still be involved with sports. You just have to make it happen. All you have to do is work hard.”

In addition to his family, Miller said that he wanted to send special ‘thank yous’ to some other special people.

He also wanted to thank the athletic department at Harrells.

Miller is the perfect example of making the most of his opportunities, but it also helps that he has the ambition and drive to make sure that all of his future dreams will come to fruition. We wish him the best of luck in all of his endeavors.

Other Crusader athletes who have been named the Sampson Weekly Performance Auto Star Athlete of the Week include OH Rouse and Ashley Usher

All credit for this article goes to the Sampson Weekly

Although he does play baseball (second baseman) for the Crusaders and played JV basketball for two years, Miller said that he is most at home working as sports director for the teams.

Another reason why that is important to him is because he knows that others are watching him work.
“You don’t know what kind of impact you are making on someone,” he said. “If you hold yourself to a higher level, kids will follow in those footsteps. I want to set a good example when I do what I do. Because you just don’t know who will be watching ...”

For his Eagle Scout project (in Boy Scout Troop 242 out of Burgaw) Miller built an archery range (Camp Kirkwood) and a shed. Which is still used by his community.

Which is exactly why leaving the school in the next couple of months will be hard for him.

“Well, I will miss a little bit of everything,” he explains. “From being around all the teams and all of the happiness and celebrations after a win, to really, the family aspect of being here at Harrells. I have been around the same people for the past 13 years and it is truly like family to me and in being part of that ‘family’ ... I am going to miss it.”
Is there a piece of advice he would give to a younger student coming into high school?

“Well, I have to thank Gina Strickland,” he said. “She is the one who told me that I had a gift for writing when I was in the 10th grade. She saw a gift in me and I thank her for that.”

“I have to thank all the coaches for allowing me to get in and be part of the teams and the student-athletes at the school, without them, I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I have been blessed to be able to continue to cover them and they are really good teams that have had success and that has really helped too.”