Genoa Christian Community Academy opened its second full season of high school basketball Tuesday night at Apostolic Christian on Sylvania Avenue.
A more experienced Apostolic team defeated the GCCA Crusaders by about 28 points, but the evening marked another new chapter in the school’s growth. Previous to the varsity game, a first-year GCCA junior high team competed against Apostolic.
This year, GCCA has a total of 12 players combined on the varsity and junior high teams, so depth will be a problem. Sutter said he may have to use a couple of his eighth graders in the high school games, as he did against Apostolic. Neither school is a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, so there is no rule prohibiting them from using eighth graders in high school contests.
“It’s exciting just to see the younger kids play,” Coach Arnie Sutter said.
Sutter, a former Genoa High School graduate who coached at Elmwood and at the college level, volunteered to help start the GCCA basketball program two years ago.
“The thing is they are having fun,” Sutter said. “The junior high kids played pretty well considering the size and everything.”
Two of his junior high players played with the high school team last year, the rest are all new to the program. The junior high team has about 10 games and three scrimmages scheduled, including a trip to Put-in-Bay, and will help provide a feeder program into the high school.
Both GCCA teams even have brand-new uniforms this season, Sutter boasted.
“It’s a process,” Sutter admitted. “Slowly but surely, I think. Especially the churches have supported the kids. The main thing is they get a chance to play.”
GCCA initiated its first full basketball season with 11 games on the schedule last year, but because of snow and other problems, finished 2-6. The GCCA season included trips to Ypsilanti, Michigan to play another small Christian school.
“The young Crusaders worked very hard in the off season on all aspects of their game. We became a very tight-knit family,” Coach Arnie Sutter said.
Two of Sutter’s best players returning are juniors — point guard Tyler Sweeney and junior Ben Davies.
Sutter describes Sweeney as the quickest player on the team. In the off-season, Sweeney had played AAU basketball with Sutter’s Western Basin-Toledo Bulldogs and traveled all over Ohio and Kentucky improving his game, the coach said, and it paid off.
Sweeney finished last year’s season by leading the "Crusaders" in assists and steals. Sweeney averaged 10 points, five assists, and five rebounds, and was also the team’s best free throw shooter at 78 percent. Sutter nominated Sweeney for the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press basketball team, and the 5-10 sophomore received votes from three ballots, earning Special Mention.
Davies was the captain of the team last year and Sutter said he did “a great job of guarding the opponent’s best player” and also was one of the leading scorers. Returning junior Damon Garza “displayed excellent second effort diving after loose balls and being our second leading rebounder.”
Brady Cooper and senior Shawn Kebker fill out the GCCA high school team’s lineup.
Ben Church remains Sutter’s assistant and takes over the first year junior high team this season, and Monica Church is the GCCA athletic director.
“They were great leaders and role models for our team,” Sutter said. “Ben Church, my assistant, he works so well with these kids and now he has his own little team that he can work with. That works out pretty well.”
In addition, GCCA school officials are planning to attend a meeting on December 15 at Monclova Christian Academy to discuss a new Northwest Ohio Christian athletic conference.
Among Christian Schools expected to attend that night are Bible Believers Christian School (Lima), Peoples Baptist Academy (Mansfield), Bowling Green Christian Academy, Fountain City Christian School (Bryan) and Harvest Temple (Clyde).
“We are going to brainstorm some ideas and see how many sports we can sponsor,” said Monclova Christian athletic director Adam Parrott. “We are very excited about this and so are the other schools attending the meeting. We want to provide a conference and play in an end of the season tournament.”
Most of these schools have limited sports and would not be accepted into other conferences. Besides basketball, GCCA has participated in track and field and cross country on a consistent basis and made attempts at putting youth soccer teams together.