High school boys basketball: CVCA shows promising signs for the future

Ashley Bastock
Kent Weeklies
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Brennan Darr goes to the hoop against Norton in Division II district semifinal game at North High School in Norton on Thursday March 4, 2021.  Norton beat CVCA 75 to 45. [Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal]

First-year Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy boys basketball coach Matt Futch fully admits no one expected his squad to make it to the district semifinals this year.

Not with learning a new system, not with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and not after the Royals (13-10) lost five straight games in the middle of the regular season.

So since no one expected them to be there in the first place, while a 75-45 season-ending loss to Norton (20-2) still stings, there was plenty that was encouraging about Thursday’s game.

“To be in this situation here against a really good Norton team, it's encouraging,” Futch said. “And it's encouraging to kind of wait the 30 days and get to the offseason. We have rising seniors like Andrew Hendrickx who's a three-sport athlete and is a star in all of them, Seth Bagwell and Brennan Darr who will kind of lead the way.

Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Carter Scott shoots over Norton's Phil Wallace in the Division II district semifinal game at North High School in Norton on Thursday March 4, 2021.  Norton beat CVCA 75 to 45. [Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal]

"We have a nice group of sophomores and I'm excited for our young guys coming through. Again, just to come over here and be in a situation where it aligns with my faith and I'm able to stand on that, I'm excited for the rest of the future.”

The Royals hung around early in the district semifinal matchup against the Panthers. In the first half  there were eight lead changes and three ties. CVCA hit on three of its four first-quarter 3-point attempts.

At halftime, CVCA was shooting 12 of 22 from the field and trailed 35-30.

But after the break was when the floodgates opened. Norton started the third quarter on a 13-0 run. Total in the second half, the Panthers hit eight 3s. They shot 13 of 22 from deep for the game. Senior guard Tommy Reynolds nearly had a triple-double with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

“Their shot-making ability today was at a high level,” Futch said. “I think they made 13 3s, and that's been our Achilles' heel all year. We haven't been able to survive on offense alone, especially against a team shooting 3s. Our offense was not built for, and was not able to survive that. With our inexperienced players, it showed there down the end. I think that was the difference.

Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Seth Bagwell shoots over Norton's Larry Harper in the Division II district semifinal game at North High School in Norton on Thursday March 4, 2021.  Norton beat CVCA 75 to 45. [Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal]

“[Norton] starts five seniors and that was the difference in the second half. They wanted it a little bit more than us. Our guys were basically new in this situation. From losing in a sectional championship last year to being in the district semifinal this year, I think that was a new situation for them. I think for us, this was my first year over here, I think it's a good building block for next year.”

Total, CVCA shot 15 of 35 from the field and 3 of 10 from 3, not hitting on any long balls after the first quarter.   Hendrickx led the way with 18 points while Carter Scott had 10. 

While the future may be bright for CVCA, the Royals will lose a handful of seniors, including Scott.

“The returning senior with varsity experience was Carter Scott,” Futch said. “But we had seniors like Jacob Koons, Clay Farley, Bryce Kightlinger, but the one that stands out, Carson Tanner. He tore his ACL in the summer. He elected not to get surgery and played on a torn ACL all year.

"So obviously Carter Scott led the way in terms of points, his leadership. But Carson Tanner, to play on a torn ACL it means a lot. We talk about Christ-like toughness and that was Christ-like toughness.”