The Genoa Community Christian Academy boys’ basketball team is playing its first season in a new league this year.
The Crusaders are competing in the Independent Christian Schools of Ohio/Michigan (ICSOM) league with Monclova Christian Academy, Grand Lake Christian (St. Mary’s), Lima Bible Believers Christian, Fountain City Christian (Bryan), and Bowling Green Christian.
BG Christian recently expanded from a K-8 school to K-12 and is building a new complex, and officials there say they would even like to have football someday.
Monclova Christian Academy plays many Toledo Area Athletic Conference schools, including Northwood, will be a probationary member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association next year, and currently is much larger than the other ICSOM schools (25 boys, grades 9-12).
To help GCCA compete, the school is inviting home-schooled students from the area who do not attend classes in Genoa to participate.
Church thinks his team will be ready to play because the strength of his team right now has been conditioning and “determination,” he said. He knows that bench depth and experience could be a weakness since he has nine players on the roster and the program is in its fourth year.
“We have been conditioning and training probably more than any other school in our league,” Church said. “We don't have a lot of depth, so our conditioning and mental attitude will be important. We hope to be competitive with every team we play.
“The competition will be tough. The top two teams will probably be Monclova and Grand Lake. Grand Lake won a two-day tournament last year that many of the league teams participated in.”
Former Genoa Comet and high school and college (Elmwood/Adrian College) coach Arnold Sutter helped the GCCA program get its start, coaching the first three years. Sutter is stepping down this year, in part to help the new NAIA basketball program get its start at Lourdes College and to run his clinics.
Taking over is Ben Church, who has been an assistant the past three years under Sutter. Last year’s team finished just under .500, but this year’s schedule increased with the addition of ICSOM league games.
Church has three returning senior lettermen — guard Ben Davies, guard Tyler Sweeny, and center Damon Garza. Davies and Sweeny have both received Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press honorable mention accolades. Davies was the top scorer, and Garza the top rebounder.
“Ben Davies is our hardest worker and team leader,” Church said. “Damon Garza is our biggest man and plays tough inside the paint.”
Church wants to see his entire team play tough defensively so the Crusaders can remain competitive.
“I stress that our top defensive goal is ‘your man never gets the ball,’” Church said.
Church says his team’s best ball handlers good at dishing assists are Sweeny and forward Isaac Laurer.
“We also have some young blood added to the team this year, and I expect them all to give additional support,” Church said. “Isaac Laurer, (guard) Benjamin Church, (forward) Seth Kebker, and (center) Noah Garza are our youngest players. Each has much potential, and they all are polishing their skills.”
Also contributing are forwards Tyler Pierce and Samuel Church. Six-foot-3 forward Jake Clapsaddle, a former GCCA player, transferred to Genoa High School and is currently on the Comets’ varsity and junior varsity roster.
The ICSOM league schedule opens Dec. 15 at Monclova Christian. Games following are Dec. 22 at Clyde Harvest Temple; Jan. 5 hosting Monclova; Jan. 12 at BG Christian; Jan. 15 at Grand Lake; Jan. 19 hosting Harvest Temple; Jan. 26 hosting Tri-County Christian (Adrian, Mich.); Feb. 4 hosting Fountain City; Feb. 12 hosting BG Christian; Feb. 20 hosting Grand Lake; Feb. 25 at Fountain City.
GCCA home games are played at the school’s campus at Genoa’s Community Ministry Center on Route 163, which is a former Genoa high school and middle school building. Fountain City is located in the former Bryan High School near downtown and like GCCA, plays its home games in the old high school gym there.