Both feet in. That is the mantra for the Athens Christian Preparatory Academy Lady Storm for this season.
“We want to do well this year and I expect them to make the playoffs by winning district,” coach Ronnie Raines said. “We want to be on the road to Waco and that is our goal and we are on the course for Waco.”
The Lady Storm are currently No. 10 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches TAPPS Private School 1A poll.
They also have a transfer from Martin’s Mill who missed out on her junior season in senior Riley Jackson. Jackson said the Top 10 ranking is awesome, but they know they are better than No. 10 in the state.
“I mean it is a great thing. Right now, I just look at it as a goal,” Jackson said. “At Martin’s Mill, we had to hold that legacy and that was stressful, but we don’t have much to do but practice and take it one game at a time. We are going to chip away and get up in the rankings, but right now you are just trying to win games.”
Jackson said she and senior Kaci Wallace make sure the underclassmen work hard to continue a winning tradition at ACPA.
“We are pretty young with only two seniors, but we have a lot of dedication and hard work. We really want to win and last year they didn’t do as good,” Jackson said. “This year, we want to prove everyone that is doubting us wrong. I come from a high expectation winning school in Martin’s Mill. I am trying to bring that in and put it in to the girls. Right now, I think we will have a really good year and we just have to stay strong and stay healthy and that is the main thing.”
For Wallace, having a player with the winning pedigree that Jackson brings from Martin’s Mill is exactly what she wants to see on the court.
“I was really excited and I am looking forward to this season. It is so exciting and I love playing with Riley because she is such a great player,” Wallace said. “She is a great person and we get along really well. When coach Ronnie told me we are getting a girl from Martin’s Mill, I was so excited and this is the best thing ever. I want to say we practiced a few practices and I could tell by the way she played and the way I played, we could just look at each other and knew. We work really well and I was grateful for that.”
Jackson agreed with Wallace about her playing style and how they work well on the court so early in the season.
“I love Kaci and she has dedication and determination. I see us getting along very well on the court and we haven’t played many games together, but we already know what each other is going to do,” Jackson said. “We have the same mindset that we are going to win and we are going to do whatever we have to do to do that. We try to lead them and show them that you can’t play scared and get out their and hustle.
We try to tell that them defense wins games more than anything. I told them it will be a different ballgame and we are going to play fast and not walking. We told them we have to get up and win and play with them and we will.”
Raines said that makes his job easier when his two seniors guide the younger players during practice and in games.
“Riley brings a lot of leadership and everybody knows about Martin’s Mill so we don’t have to talk about that. She is the floor general and directs those girls and encourages, is an instructor and like a good senior leader, she will get on them if she has to,” Raines said. “Kaci has been with me for four years and is a first-team all-state her freshman year. She sees the floor well and knows where she is supposed to be. She can makes things happen once she gets the ball and is a tough kid.”
Raines said with such a young team this year, he knows they could have some growing pains but they will be a fun team to watch.
“Last year, we had seven girls and five of them were seniors. This year, we have a lot of freshman and sophomores and two juniors,” Raines said. “All of them except for Riley and Kaci have not played a high school basketball game so this is all new to them. They are young but this is a fast team and we will run the floor when we can and shoot the three ball. They are young but exciting and will be a tough team to beat this year.”
Jackson said her coaches at Martin’s Mill and Raines have some similarities when it comes to the game of basketball.
“Every since I was in kindergarten, I had a ball in my hands and they were always making sure we were playing basketball. In P.E., you either ran or played basketball so it is a lot different and we ran a lot at Martin’s Mill,” Jackson said. “We practiced a lot and every weekend we were on the court. Coach Ronnie has really had a lot of ambition and has put in the time to us and each player. I think that is the biggest difference is that he wants all of the girls to succeed and he wants to push the girls to be the best they can be.”
Raines said the main focus of the team is defense first.
“We want defense first and we have always prided ourselves on defense,” Raines said. “When we made that run to state a couple of years ago, we were holding teams to 30 or below. That is what we want to get back to and against Brook Hill, we had one quarter where they got over double digits. We are stressing defense and let the offense come.”