Crusader Girls Basketball Finds Success as a Family - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Crusader Girls Basketball Finds Success as a Family

The Northwest Christian girl's basketball team will take a family road trip to the Spokane Arena this Thursday in hopes of taking home the school's first girls championship. The Northwest Christian girl's basketball team will take a family road trip to the Spokane Arena this Thursday in hopes of taking home the school's first girls championship.
The Northwest Christian girls basketball team entered into this time last season wide-eyed and looking to make a surprise impact in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 2B State Tournament at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. That’s exactly what they did.

The Crusaders defeated Lake Roosevelt in the first round to earn the chance to play at the Arena. They cruised past Napavine in their first game on the big court and under the lights. Then the NWC girls defeated Pe Ell 47-46 in the semifinals and advanced to the championship game.

There was one problem. Reardan was waiting. The Crusaders were given the task of facing an Indians team that was looking to make WIAA history by winning its third straight 2B Championship. Not to mention, dealing with the three-time Associated Press Class 2B State Player of the Year, Kelsey Moos.

Last year a young Crusaders team faced and lost to the Indians’ senior-laden juggernaut five times throughout league, district, regional and state play. This season’s 26-1 squad blew past Reardan each of the three times they faced each other.

The 2013-’14 squad handled the struggle of youth—Northwest Christian has one senior in Chanel Knight. Headed into the season with a brand new head coach—Talara Frost replaced Ashley Connell. This all happened while the team dealt with the bitter taste of reaching the final game of the season and having to watch another team celebrate haunting their dream’s all year long.

The Crusaders have overcome every obstacle and are back at 2B basketball’s biggest stage. Northwest Christian’s first game back at the Spokane Arena is this Thursday, March 6, versus the Bear Creek School at 9:00 a.m. live on SWX.

Click here for the full girl's 2B bracket:

The Crusaders know exactly why they have been so successful this season, and why that success won’t end up as a fleeting feeling. They’re a Family.

“It really is something special,” junior Treasure Farmer said. “I’ve been with some of these girls since fifth grade. You just have to connect with each other, and with my team we have so much chemistry. It’s part of what makes this team unique and I think that’s why we’ve gone as far as have.”

This Crusaders team has gone beyond the bond normal teammates feel and have become one giant family.

“We hang out on and off the court,” junior Mackenzie Gray explained. “When we’re at practice we’re always having fun. Laughing during the games. I think that’s what makes us what we are, we just laugh and have fun. Basketball is supposed to be a game and we treat it like one and just go out there and enjoy each other.”

On and off the court experience and relationships normally come to high school basketball teams in four-year swings, for Northwest Christian this chemistry has been building for a long time.

“I think that’s a testament to how close they are and how they are as a family,” Frost said. “A lot of them spend time together on and off the court; I don’t think I’ve ever seen them apart. I think that helps. It helps build that chemistry with each other. They’ve played school ball together for so long, a lot of these girls have gone to Northwest Christian together since first grade. So that really builds that. It helps, being such a young team, but at the same time five juniors isn’t too young either.”

All of the time together that this team has racked up on the court makes this younger team look and play beyond the years listed next to its players' names.

“We have a great group of girls. We have five juniors and one senior and we’ve all been playing together for a long time so we have the chemistry built,” junior Courtney Gray said. “It helps just knowing were everyone is and being able to push the ball and knowing how everyone plays and knowing what kind of passes to throw.”

Walking into such a tight knit group could have been a difficult thing to do for a first-year head coach, but with Frost the Crusaders haven’t skipped a beat.

“It’s important for me to just have good relationships with the girls, “ Frost said. “They have been playing together for a while, so that can be hard to walk into that type of situation. Getting to know them and building those relationships and just using their strength’s to capitalize on winning wars has been what we’ve tried to do. Our coaching staff has worked really hard to build that and continue the success they’ve had together.”

So far the only speed bump the Crusaders have hit this season has come in the form of their Northeast 2B League rivals, Colfax. Only three points separates the results in the four games between NWC and the Bulldogs this season, with Colfax handing the Crusaders their only loss of the season in a sub-regional championship game two weekends ago.

“It’s never fun to lose. I think I hate losing more than I love winning,” Frost said. “It’s definitely a good wake up call for us, losing the last game that we could lose, heading into the tournament. From here on out the girls realize that it’s important for them to work hard. “

For the team, the loss to the Bulldogs might have been the best thing to happen to them this season, and the players know it.

“Losing is never fun, but it’s really helpful in the long run,” Mackenzie Gray said. “We’ve had a target on our back all season and now that we have that one loss in that column it pushes us that much harder to win every game. “

Sometimes a loss can provide the push a team needs and brings extra fire to the equation, especially when the next time NWC could meet the Bulldogs would be in the championship game.

“It’s definitely extra fire and it makes us want to push that much harder, and if we see them again, we don’t want that feeling again,” Knight said. “The one that we had after losing to them, and it makes us want to fight for that win even harder because that did not feel good.”

Another feeling Northwest Christian has for Colfax is respect, knowing that the competition with the Bulldogs only makes the Crusaders better as a team.

“I love playing them and I wouldn’t have it any other way it’s what makes the game fun,” Farmer said. “I love playing against them, even though we did lose and it was heartbreaking. I think it’s good for us in the end. I think we can come out stronger and better. Good for them they deserve to win, it will just make us better in the end.”

With Northwest Christian located in Colbert and just over 13 miles away from the Spokane Arena, the State B Tournament being in the Crusaders’ own back yard is a facet that isn’t lost on the team either.

“It’s going to be great,” Courtney Gray said. “Having all of the fans there to support us from home and being able to play basically on our home court.”

For the full SWX State B broadcast schedule click here:

And with the Arena so close the Crusaders know the whole school will flock to the seats to show its support.

“We have our whole school coming to those games and it’s really important to us to have our fans there and it’s awesome to have it be in Spokane,” Mackenzie Gray said.

Thanks to the collective youth of NWC, despite its run in last year’s tournament, the experience of playing at this stage can be daunting.

“It’s not easy to adjust to, playing in the arena and under the lights,” Farmer said. “It is a nerve-wrecking experience but having that under your belt is comforting going into another season knowing what that feels like. So I think that’s good if all of our underclassmen have that experience coming in that they could do it every year.”

Simply getting to play at the Spokane Arena isn’t enough for this Northwest Christian girl’s team. It is about proving to their peers at Northwest Christian and the rest of the area that it can put a state champions banner up in the rafters, just like their boys have so often in recent history.

“It’s hard seeing all of the guy’s banners up there, and no girls banners, so we want that banner on the end with our names on it,” Courtney Gray said.

The NWC boy’s have won seven 2B championships, including five in a six year span from the 2005-’06 to the 2010-’11 season.

“We are proud of our boys. But it would be nice to get a banner up there that says, ‘girls basketball.’”

It wouldn’t only be the first state championship for the girl’s basketball team in the school’s history. It would be about sending this team’s lone senior out in style.

“It’d be awesome,” Knight said. “I’ve been here four years, and it has always been about the boy’s championships up there, so it would be awesome to have a girls championship up there.”

Frost thinks this is the right combination of NWC girl’s team to finally give the school a 2B title.

“It’s a great place to start this program off right,” Frost said. “They’ve worked really hard and it shows. I know they’d love to give it to their senior and have that banner put up there. A lot of talk has been about our boy’s team that has been really successful. So the girl’s would like to equal that success.”
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