On March 11, the Lady Eagles basketball team wrapped up the 2022–2023 season as they finished fourth in the nation for the NCCAA DII category. From early losses and injuries to adjusting to this season’s team dynamics and keeping up with busy schedules, the players have modeled a spirit of resilience as they played hard to the very last game.
“Our motto is ALL IN,” said Jared Sellars, the Lady Eagles basketball coach. “We want our players to be all in, all the time.”
This motto exemplifies the Eagle Way mindset, which promotes a list of qualities ranging from sportsmanship and Christlikeness to humility and resilience. Sellars, who just completed his twelfth year as the Lady Eagles coach, explained that this year’s team played “with a lot of grit.” This grit—this desire for excellence and level of resilience—has been apparent from the team’s opening game against Enterprise State College on October 28 to their final game during the NCCAA National Tournament.
Filling New Roles on the Team
As the defending National Champions, the Lady Eagles began the season with several key players taking on leadership roles. “A lot of girls have stepped into a bigger role than they were in last year and stepped up to help us win some tough games,” said Alissa Brewer (Jr., MS), a guard for the Lady Eagles.
“My team has grown together in the midst of new players having to fill new roles.”
In addition to Alissa’s own role in rebounding, Leah Phelps (Sr., TX) and Jenna Wolford (Jr., OH) challenged themselves in amazing ways this season. In the first game alone, Jenna Wolford, a guard, scored 24 points, and she remained one of the team’s highest scorers throughout the rest of the season. In the team’s first victory of the season, guard Leah Phelps scored 30 points, a career high for the senior. However, Leah topped even this record high during a match against the Southeastern Baptist Chargers when she scored 35 points, breaking the record for most points by a Lady Eagle in a single game.
Jenna and Leah had a lot of support from their teammates. Some of these Lady Eagles, such as Montse Torres (Jr., Mexico), were returning from a previous season while other teammates, including Rachel Phelps (Fr., TX), were joining the Lady Eagles for the first time. Forward Carissa Akin (Sr., IL) explained, “My team has grown together in the midst of new players having to fill new roles. We had to work through and adjust things throughout the season, and the growth could be seen in how we communicated with each other and played better.”
Despite some initial losses, the Lady Eagles remained resilient and took each game one at a time—going “all in.” Carissa added, “The overall playing was extremely competitive, but it did take a little bit for our team to find its chemistry. Once we went on a game-winning streak, it made it easier for everyone to work hard to keep it up.”
Working toward a Common Goal
Steadily, the girls gained victories and qualified for the Regional Tournament, where they became the South Region champions through their victory over Toccoa Falls College. “We have matured and grown so much over the year. We really have battled some injuries and [a] few other issues this year, so for this team to grind out a regional championship was amazing,” Coach Sellars said.
The Lady Eagle’s determination and hard work clearly paid off as four players were recognized at the South Regional Tournament:
- Leah Phelps: South Region Player of the Year
- Jenna Wolford: First Team All-Region
- Montse Torres: Second Team All-Region
- Alissa Brewer: All-Region Honorable Mention
Through a stellar season and their fourth seed ranking, PCC Lady Eagles entered the National Tournament for a tenth year in a row. “I felt very blessed that we were able to qualify for the tournament again,” Alissa said. “Every year our goal is to be at the National Tournament, so it’s always a good feeling to make it.”
Though the team won their first game at Nationals against North Central University, they did not land a win against the no. 1 team, Champion Christian College. Still, the Lady Eagles stayed resilient, playing hard through their final game against no. 6 team, Simmons College of Kentucky. Though the game was close, the Lady Eagles could not stay ahead of Simmons, thus finishing their season as fourth in the nation and South Region champions.
“They represent the Lord, the school, and their family on and off the court.”
During the National Tournament, two Lady Eagles were once again recognized for their performance this season:
- Jenna Wolford: Second Team All-American and Scholar-Athlete
- Leah Phelps: First Team All-American and All-Tournament Team
As the Lady Eagles look back on this season, they have clearly been stretched in many ways. “All of the time and energy and emotions were worth it because I have made some of my best friends through the team,” Carissa said. “My coaches and teammates have become like family to me. Being a Lady Eagle also helped me to be a leader on campus and make friends with the supportive fans at every game.”
“I am so proud of this team,” Coach Sellars said. “[I’m] really proud of how they represent the Lord, the school, and their family on and off the court.”