When Abigail Banzhof, Laura Knight, Katie Richards and Emily Nageotte first suited up as sixth-graders for the first Community School of Davidson girls’ basketball team five seasons ago, they could never have imagined where the Spartan program would go.But after starting in mustard-yellow pennies with numbers made from teal-blue duct tape in their first game, the CSD quartet – who remain on the team now as high school juniors – have come a long way and are off to an 11-3 start in their first full season as a varsity basketball team.“It’s been great to watch program develop from scratch,” Banzhof said, now 16. “We’ve been through a lot of wins and losses together and learned a lot. I think all of that has prepared us for what we are doing now.”While the Spartans have some veteran players – who grew up with the middle school and junior varsity teams – they began their first full varsity slate with a new coach, Scott Burkhard, as well. While Burkhard had served as a CSD middle-school coach for three previous seasons, coaching many of his current players, even he wasn’t quite sure what would happen this season.“Coming into the season, I don’t think any of us knew exactly what to do expect because of the challenges (including a full varsity schedule) that we had in front of us,” Burkhard said. “We knew we had some talent coming back and talent coming in. But we weren’t sure how it would all come together.”Burkhard’s team has impressed winning six of their last seven games, including a 43-31 win over Lincoln Charter, the first time the Spartan girls have ever beaten the Eagles. The CSD girls also have impressive sweeps of both Bessemer City and Carmel Christian with their losses coming to Carolina Christian, Fayetteville Street Christian and Queens Grant.Burkhard and Co. also have an unusual lineup. With no seniors in the program, they usually start three juniors in Banzhof, Richards and Knight, with sophomores Kendyl Bradley and Caroline Alexander filling out the group. But while they may start the game, CSD also regularly rotates in a quintet of freshman in Courtney Burkhard (Scott’s daughter), Julia Grainda, Anna Lavella, Bridgette Mitchell and Caroline Nageotte.“We like to play at a high pace and play pressure defense all the time, and we want the girls to go as hard as they can when they are on the floor,” Burkhard said. “In the majority of our games, we start one group and then bring a whole new five girls in. I think it not only gives us fresh legs, but creates a whole new set of match-ups for our opponents to try to figure out.”The Spartans have been tough to figure because of their balance, as Grainda (8.8 ppg) and Lavella (8.1) lead a group of 10 players who average between three and nine points per contest. The depth and quality of their rotation makes it difficult to find a key player to stop.“You can’t just focus on one or two players when you are playing us, because someone else will step up,” Burkhard said, noting Cassidy Haddok, Madison Good, Isabella Krider, Emily Nageotte and Sarah Shealy have also contributed. “I feel like someone different steps up for us nearly every game. It’s a nice situation to have.”Knight says all their hard work over the years is paying off.“I was watching a highlight film of our seventh-grade year the other day, and it is hard to imagine how far this team has come,” Knight said. “But I think we are figuring out what it takes to win and how to have fun doing it.”While the CSD girls’ basketball is focused on the court, they are also strong off it as well, as they are not only good students but great mentors as well.Every Sunday night, the varsity players volunteer their time to help play and coach 20 to 30 CSD elementary students who may also want to play basketball one day.Burkhard hopes their work not only helps teach the younger girls the life lessons that basketball offers but also gets them interested in helping to build the CSD basketball program.While the future looks bright, Burkhard and his team are also squarely focused on the now, as they are looking to challenge for the Piedmont conference title and a potential berth in the state playoffs, starting this season.“We’re very proud of what we have accomplished this year and overall, so far,” Banzhof said. “But we also want to leave a lasting mark on the program. Before we graduate, we want to hang some kind of banner in that gym, so no one can ever forget us.”
Friday, Jan. 11, 2013
Spartans make strong impression from the start
CSD girls team off to a 11-3 start in its first, full varsity season
From left, Community School of Davidson player Julia Grainda (11) drives to the hoop while Kendyl Bradley (15) and Abigail Banzhof (22) get position against Lincoln Charter School.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer for the Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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