DALE CITY Ashleey Stevens just wanted to play. She didn’t care how much or what position.
All the Evangel Christian School sophomore cared about was being out on the court with her friends and she was willing to work all summer to do it.
“I was hoping to maybe be a sixth man or something,” Stevens said, after helping the undefeated Eagles cruise to a 52-22 victory over Valley Baptist Saturday afternoon in the finals of the Evangel Invitational.
“I just like being a part of the team with the girls,” she said. “It’s awesome playing with them.”
After playing “two seconds last year, if that,” Stevens spent all three months of her summer vacation playing basketball. She spent hours shooting layups and jump shots and spent nearly as much time improving her ball handling.
“I worked a lot at home with my dad,” she said. “Every day. He played defense on me and I played defense on him.”
On some days, Stevens also sought out pickup games in her neighborhood. And she never refused an invitation to work out with senior guard Terri Slade her role model.
“She worked so hard during the summer. She came out and shocked everyone with her skill this year,” Slade said. “She’s willing to work so hard because she really wanted to play. This year, she got what she wanted.”
By the time the season began in mid-November, Stevens was part of the Eagles’ starting lineup. On Saturday, she scored nine points giving her 56 in five games.
“There’s a lot I still need to improve on. This is my second year playing,” Stevens said. “I still get nervous sometimes, but I like it. Basketball is my favorite sport.”
It’s quickly become her best sport as well. By next season, Stevens will likely inherit Slade’s role as the team’s playmaker. She’s proud of that because Slade has done so much to help her sometimes without even knowing it.
“I’ve learned a lot from Terri,” Stevens said. “It’s cool to learn from somebody older than you. Last year, when I first started playing, I always watched her. I’m going to miss her.”
Right now, Stevens is quite content to play alongside Slade in the Eagles’ backcourt. They take turns bringing the ball up court and each plays a key role in Evangel’s full-court pressure defense.
In Friday’s semifinal victory, Evangel (5-0) held Providence Christian to five points. Valley Baptist didn’t fare much better in the finals.
Junior center Katie Oakes, the team’s leading scorer, finished with a team-high 12 points, while Slade chipped in with 11. Junior guard Danni Howe added seven points and Savannah James six points as the Eagles used all 12 players.
“We want to win so bad, you can see it on the court,” Slade said. “We’re always going for the ball.”
Playing in front of a lively home crowd, Evangel opened up a 31-16 halftime lead and finished with 21 field goals. Even after the starters were done for the day, the Eagles continued to dominate. They finished the game 6-foot seventh grader Chelsea Amick ( 2 points, 3 rebounds) and two freshmen Erin Nuckols and Elia Lake on the court.
“A lot of teams don’t have a bench that can play,” Slade said. “We have a bench that can play.”
WOODBRIDGE 61, BROOKE POINT 43: Freshman Ariene Jenkins scored a season-high 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds Saturday night as Woodbridge ran past Brooke Point, 61-43, in a non-district game.
The Vikings’ front court combined for 49 points and 26 rebounds as they won for the second straight night. Diana Martinez had 16 points and eight rebounds, while Whitney Allen combined for 14 points and eight rebounds.
Woodbridge built a 31-19 halftime lead and improved to 6-1 overall.
Caitlin Marshall led Brooke Point with 15 points.
EVANGEL BOYS 64, CLINTON CHRISTIAN 44: Junior forward Ryan Keefe scored a game-high 30 points as the host Eagles captured the Evangel Invitational with a 64-44 victory over Clinton Christian.
Keefe also pulled down 16 rebounds for Evangel, which improved to 4-1 overall.
Sixth-grader Kendall Marshall finished with 14 points, including a pair of second-quarter 3-pointers that helped turn a four-point deficit into a 32-28 halftime lead.
Antionee Bennett added 10 points and Brian Farria nine points for the Eagles.
WALBROOK 55, WOODBRIDGE 53: Jimmy Conyers hit six free throws in the fourth quarter to wrap up a 24-point performance as Walbrook edged Woodbridge, 55-53, Saturday night in Baltimore.
The visiting Vikings led most of the way, building a 27-23 advantage at halftime and taking a 43-39 edge into the fourth period. But Conyers brought Walbrook back as Woodbridge lost its second straight following a 3-0 start.
Daniel Fountain had a team-high 24 points for the Vikings. James Prince finished with 17.
COLONIAL BEACH 61, EMMANUEL CHRISTIAN 53: The first place team in the Delaney Athletic Conference had a tough time of it at Emmauel Christian Saturday night, but Colonial Beach rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to pull out a 61-53 victory over the Flames.
Neal Coleman scored 24 points, while Lambros Koufoudakis and Tim Ford had 11 points each for Colonial Beach, which improved to 6-0 in DAC play.
Emmanuel (2-3, 2-2) was led by Adam Pophin, who hit four 3-pointers for a team-high 12 points.