Danville Christian basketball teams growing; Warriors, Lady Warriors becoming competitors in 45th District

By MIKE MARSEE
Contributing Writer

The growth of a program isn’t always pretty, but sometimes it can be a beautiful sight.

That’s how it has been this season at Danville Christian Academy, where the boys and girls basketball teams are in their first season of full immersion in district play.

There have been good nights and bad ones, and all of them have been important steps in the development of two programs that have been on a slow but steady rate of progression for almost 15 years.

DCA is in its fourth year as a member of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and now fields teams in 11 varsity sports, and its basketball teams debuted in the 45th District Tournament last season.

This season, the Warriors and Lady Warriors are taking part in the round-robin district schedule used to seed that tournament. That’s a home-and-home against each district team — Boyle County, Danville, Garrard County and Lincoln County.

Some of those games have been, well, less than competitive. Some of them, a little more so. And some of them have produced moments that will be remembered as building blocks for programs that aim to be consistently competitive in the 45th District sooner rather than later.

“It’s taken us a while to get used to the pace and the strength of the district,” DCA girls coach Billy Inmon said. “It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s been a challenge that we’re glad to take on.”

That challenge crystallized in recent weeks when both the girls and boys teams played all four district opponents in a span of eight days. The snapshots from some of those games show some of the ups and downs of these two programs.

On Feb. 25, the DCA boys scored fewer points than they had in any of their three seasons of KHSAA competition in a 56-20 loss to Boyle.

Two days later, a game against Danville appeared to be headed in the same direction when the Warriors fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter. Then they battled back, and their small gym suddenly became a very noisy place when they pulled within 23-22 in a second quarter in which the play was good and the intensity was high and the fans were into it.

It was a single scene in a game they ultimately lost by 15 points, but it was a moment that pulled them one step closer to where they want to be.

“Jumping from basically starting out to starting to be able to compete with some of the district teams has been a blessing and an encouragement to all of us,” DCA boys coach Don Story said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are making strides to getting to what we want to be able to do, and that’s compete for districts and regions.”

The DCA girls had played only six games in the first seven weeks of the season before their four-game gauntlet began Feb. 22 with a 66-34 loss at Lincoln.

But the next time out, the Lady Warriors celebrated a 52-34 over Boyle that was their first victory in a game that counted in the 45th District standings.

“It was really great. We came out aggressive and we came out physical, and we were hitting our shots,” said sophomore guard Victoria Inmon, the coach’s daughter. “We were really focused, and I think we were really trying to give God all the glory that we could throughout that game and giving every possession all that we had. That was really sweet for all of us, and it was really sweet to share that moment with my dad, too.”

It is just the kind of celebration that Victoria’s dad, who in his ninth season as DCA’s girls coach is the longest-serving coach in school history, and others who have helped grow the school’s athletic program had in mind years ago when they first considered KHSAA membership.

DCA opened in 1996, enrolled its first high school students in 2006 and moved into its Shakertown Road campus in 2009. Its teams previously competed in the Kentucky Christian Athletic Association, but Billy Inmon said the decision to jump to the KHSAA was made with the school’s growth in mind.

“For the kids in this area, if they wanted a Christian education, we didn’t want them to have to compromise on whether or not to compete with the other area schools,” he said. “We didn’t want to lose kids that wanted to be here but also wanted to play sports.”

Story, who coached the Lincoln girls from 2005-10 and was an assistant coach with the Lincoln boys for several years before retiring from that school system, said the move is one thing that attracted him to DCA in 2018.

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “I wanted to compete against the Lincolns, the Boyles.”

It also is one of the reasons the school is growing, Inmon said. DCA has about 50 high school students and only seven KHSAA member schools were smaller based on enrollment figures reported from the 2019-20 school years, but its numbers are on the rise.

“It actually has had a much bigger impact than we’d ever imagined,” he said. “From the time we announced that we were going to KHSAA, our school has more than doubled, and our high school will have more than tripled by the end of next year.

“It’s definitely had the effect that we thought it would, but faster than what we dreamed it would have.”

On the court, it hasn’t always been pretty. The DCA boys entered the final week of the regular season with a 10-game losing streak that included five district defeats.

“It’s been tough, but we’re still fighting, we’re still playing as a team,” sophomore forward Noah Meyer said. “I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better. We’ve got a long way to go, but I feel like we’re getting there.”

Story said he knew there would be days like this as the Warriors faced an arduous schedule that included not only eight district games but also home-and-homes with Casey County and Mercer County before the

COVID-19 pandemic forced its reconstruction.

“That’s 12 games that are going to be hard for us to win right now,” he said. “It’s hard to talk to the boys about moral victories, because they want to win, but this is the toughest schedule we’ve ever had,” he said.

There also are games against smaller schools with which the team has a better chance of competing.

“I knew it was going to be hard, and I wanted them to have a balance this year to keep them encouraged, not just about moral victories (and) not get devastated by losses against good programs,” Story said.

“To be honest, sometimes we don’t get (district opponents’) best games right now, but I think we’re starting to get people’s better games,” Story said. “When you feel like they’re playing their best and we’re playing pretty close to our best and we’re still in the game, that excites me.”

Moments like the rally in the Danville game — or even a good single positive play — sustain the players’ level of encouragement.

“I just dwell on the good things and push the bad things aside and try to just keep going on,” Meyer said.

The DCA girls lost six of eight games prior to the final week of the season, four of them to district foes.

“In some of those games, we’re just looking for ourselves to make sure that we’re learning how to be more aggressive and more physical,” Billy Inmon said.

“We’re learning as we’re going, and we’re trying to adjust,” Victoria Inmon added. “A victory, I think, is just matching physicality and matching aggression and going in every time and giving it your all on every possession and every play.”

The Lady Warriors were runners-up in the Kentucky Christian Athletic Association in 2015 and ’16, and they won a National Association of Christian Athletes division championship in 2019. Billy Inmon said there were growing pains on the way to those achievements, and he said they are focused on the big picture through this growth spurt as well.

“We’ve got vision. Obviously we want to win every game, we’d love to get a win in the district tournament, and to make it to the region, that would be a pretty special deal,” the coach said. “But right now, I told them you can’t focus on that, you’ve got to focus on first Glorifying God, then effort and attitude, and then just the next game.”

The coach and his players are thankful that the games have kept coming in this pandemic-affected season.

The start of their season was pushed back from late November to early January, after which there were three stoppages of at least 10 days due to COVID-19 protocols.

“Physically, we’re not in the type of shape we were in in November, and that’s pretty frustrating,” Billy Inmon said. “This year has been crazy for everyone, and I keep telling the kids I have no idea why, but we have to have faith. God is in control and we just take it one day at a time.”

The days are a little bit easier now that the DCA teams have made themselves at home in their new home gymnasium. After years of practicing and playing in church gyms and other venues in four different counties, they moved into the Ernest Martin Warrior Complex in 2019.

“One thing that’s really helped us is having this gym,” Story said. “Kids want to have a home, and we have that now, and I think that’s part of growing.”

Billy Inmon, whose name is on the court both because of his team’s successes and because he played a significant role in the fundraising for and construction of the facility, said the gym is a convenience for players and coaches but also an important component of the school’s growth.

“For me, it was really special not to have to carry everything you might need for a practice in your vehicle,” he said. “But it was essential to be able to do what we were wanting to do.

“This is a $1.2 million facility and we did it for $400,000. It became budget positive to build this rather than to keep renting places for games, practices and PE.”

The players, of course, are grateful.

“It feels really good to have a home, like we’re all in this together,” Noah Meyer said. “This is our building, and we’re not going to let anybody just come in here and beat down on us.”

“Home games are my favorite, honestly,” Victoria Inmon said. “The first time we just walked in here for practice I was like, ‘We don’t have to travel 30 minutes to get to a gym.’ I feel like God worked a lot of miracles to be able to play in this gym.”

The programs have come a long way in a relatively short time, but Billy Inmon said he always believed they could grow to this point and beyond.

“I’ve always believed that we were capable of doing this,” he said. “I think you have to have vision, and we’ve got a great headmaster that has that vision and been supportive in everything that we’ve done. Really though it just comes down to faith in God to get us there.”

DCA’s teams have seemingly been young for years, sometimes because players have left for other schools.

Both the Boyle and Danville boys teams have a player in their starting lineup who once played for DCA.

This year’s boys roster plays one junior, three sophomores, two freshmen and two eighth-graders. The girls start one senior but also have one junior, two sophomores, a freshman, an eighth-grader and a seventh-grader in their rotation.

And its coaches envision a time not so far into the future when players come to DCA and choose to stay, when senior nights are a little more crowded, when their rosters look much like those of the teams they play.

“I think one of these days, hopefully in the not-to-distant future, we’re going to look back at these early stages and go, ‘How in the world did we compete with two eighth-graders, a freshman and two sophomores starting?’

“A coach told me one time that this school was always young,” Story said. “Hopefully we’re not going to always be young, and we will keep the kids that are here, and we will continue to develop our program and we will have great success in the near future.”