Matt Woods and the Asheville Christian Academy boys wanted to prove it to themselves as much as anyone.
The Lions (11-2) got their validation.
The third-ranked team in NCISAA 2-A basketball went into the holiday break with wins over Asheville High, Avery County, Owen and Pisgah before placing fifth at the Greer (S.C.) Christmas tournament Saturday.
“We’re confident, and the team is looking pretty good right now,” Woods said. “(The wins over the local NCHSAA teams) meant a lot to us. For us, we needed to show ourselves that we’re probably one of the best teams in Western North Carolina. We’re not just a small Christian school, we do have good athletics.”
Woods is averaging 14 points and four assists a night, but the senior had 22 points in the home win over Pisgah (62-48 on Dec. 20). At the time, the Black Bears (11-1) were undefeated.
Another guard, sophomore Jordan Shepherd, added 19 points against Pisgah.
Woods is the only full-time starter back from last season’s 18-8 team and is shooting 57 percent from the field. Fellow senior Hank Gompers started about five games last season, as did 6-foot-10 junior Jeff McIlwain. Gompers and McIlwain are averaging more than seven rebounds a game.
“This is really a fun group to coach, and they work extremely hard every day,” ACA coach Andy Ray said.
“It’s fun because they like the game, they study the game. One of the strengths of this team is its basketball IQ. The guys understand what they’re trying to accomplish and how it needs to be done. Then they go out and execute.”
Ray also had kind words for his team’s efficiency on offense.
“Our shot selection and patience are as good as any team I’ve had here,” Ray said. “We’re getting a lot less possessions, but we’re making use of them. Overall, our shooting percentage is much improved.”
Woods hopes the Lions can contend for a CAA championship in his fourth year on the varsity level, but it will require at least a win or two over usual stalwarts Christ School and Rabun Gap (Ga.) later this season.
“We’ll see how it comes about, but that is definitely a goal,” Woods said.
On paper, the Lions’ next game looks to be their toughest yet. ACA is at home for Friday’s 6:30 p.m. matchup with Northside Christian (11-1), which was ranked No. 14 nationally by MaxPreps entering this week.