In his 16 years at the helm of the Phoenix Christian girls basketball program, coach Bruce Consier has emblazoned team chemistry into a trademark of sorts for the small Division IV school.
This season, armed with a roster that includes five seniors who have played together since fifth grade, and a strong core of underclassmen fully embracing their coach’s philosophy, Phoenix Christian is hoping to translate its team’s all-for-one calling card into a deep playoff run come February.
“They’ve all bought in and none of them ever has a problem sharing the spotlight,” Consier said. “They’ve played a lot of basketball together and the girls really trust each other on the court. It’s just a really enjoyable team to coach.”
An integral part of the success of Phoenix Christian (16-2) has developed from those five close-knit seniors — Megan Sluga, Leah Janes, Aiesha Bright, Katie Westbrook and Kendra Ornoski — all opting to lead the team together instead of battling for control among themselves.
“We’ve matured a lot as players under coach, so we do things collectively as a unit,” Sluga said. “We know if there’s conflict among the seniors, there will be conflict with everyone else, so we try to lead by example and show our teammates that we’re a family.”
Phoenix Christian accomplished that two years ago when junior guard Dinah Watson, then a freshman, made the squad in her first year at the K-12 school. Watson initially thought she wouldn’t be accepted right away since most of her teammates had known each other for years. But from the first practice onward, Watson experienced nothing but a totally inclusive environment.
“They welcomed me from the start,” said Watson, who leads the team this year with 14 points per game. “I’ve always felt comfortable and that has helped me a lot because I didn’t have to worry about what everyone thought of me.”
That type of team unity has certainly bred a more-balanced attack at Phoenix Christian. Without a prototypical star doing all the damage, the squad is winning games together. And that’s just how Consier likes it.
“There is always somebody stepping up,” Consier said. “You can’t just stop one girl with us because we’ll just find the open player. If you double team one girl, the next is going to score and so on. That’s the type of team we’ve built here and it has the potential to be one of the best I’ve coached.”