In the two previous seasons, David Roberts knew he had the best team on the court nearly every night out.
Those North Georgia Christian boys basketball teams went to two consecutive state championship games, losing by six two years ago to a team that would end up forfeiting the title due to ineligible players, and then winning it all last season. The Chargers were 41-9 over the two seasons where they were one of the best teams among the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama, if not the best.
“I said that we really had been the best team in the league the last two years,” said Roberts, the Chargers head coach for the last three years. “I’ve been blessed with some good talent. The last two years we’ve had big-time guys who went off to play in college.”
But that team practically dissolved after last season, with 10 seniors graduating. As far as most anybody could tell, the Chargers’ run was over.
“Nobody expected us to be over .500, but we’re 16-8 and beating teams that are better than us,” Roberts said. “It’s been a fun year to coach because nobody expected much of us.”
There may be a lot of new faces, but the team is once again headed down to Columbus on Thursday for a third-straight semifinals appearance.
The Chargers haven’t always been the best team on the court this season, Roberts said, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been winning, and it’s a testament to the three seniors.
“Our seniors have led us,” the coach said. “These guys are just used to winning.”
On Friday the three led the Chargers to a 66-45 win over Ballard Christian (Ala.) in the ICSGA sub-state quarterfinals.
Trey Collins led North Georgia Christian with 16 points, point guard Aaron Willis added 13 points and Dylan Boonstra scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
For his effort, Boonstra has been named The Times Athlete of the Week.
The 6-foot-4 center has been playing on the varsity team since his freshman season, but this was the first one in which the pressure was squarely on his and the other senior’s shoulders if the Chargers were to continue their run of success.
“For me personally, last year I had other guys to rely on,” Boonstra said. “This year I had to step up.
“I think we did better than a lot of people expected us to do.”
And while the team may be right back where they were the past two years, the Chargers did it a little differently this season.
“I totally revamped offense. Last year we were a run-and-gun team, but we can’t do that this year,” Roberts said. “This year we had to back off and play zone, and it took people by surprise. We totally changed our style, it’s worked out well for us.”
Boonstra has, literally, been in the middle of that change.
“Some nights when they don’t have anyone to handle him we’ll give the ball to Dylan, that’s how we won the last time,” said Roberts, who added that the semifinals opponent, Kingdom Academy Prep out of Columbus, will be a tough challenge with a couple of Division-I prospects, including a 6-foot-10 center.
“He’s going to have to be more of a facilitator, and Dylan’s done a good job with that. The games when he only has six or seven points he has six or seven assists.”
Boonstra has also been able to get the younger players ready for Columbus.
“I know how it is, I’ve played in the games,” the senior said. “It helps them calm their nerves, because I know when I was first down there it was a big deal.”
This time, a third straight trip to the finals would be a big deal, due to the opponent and the relative youth of the Chargers this season.
“If we go down and win this thing, it’s going to be David vs. Goliath,” Roberts said.
Boonstra and the Chargers have already been Goliath in the past. This year, being David hasn’t held them back.