The Harrells Christian Academy Junior Varsity Girls faced a daunting task heading into the 2014-2015 basketball season - making it through an entire season with only six players. The low numbered team consisted of sophomore's Talina Giles, Harley Crumpler, Tyler Evans, and Ashlynn Hardison, freshman Sydney Norris, and 8th grader Elizabeth Benton. Head coach Wendy Crumpler may have had a small roster but she had one that consisted of girls with a passion for the game and the heart to win. And that's exactly what the JV Lady Crusaders did. The team’s only losses of the season came on December 5th, 2014, to Cary Christian and Freedom Christian on December 12th, 2014. With an overall record of 7-2 in the regular season, the girls claimed the Coastal Rivers Conference (CRC) Regular Season title. They went on to claim the CRC Tournament title as well. Under the leadership of Harley Crumpler along with the play of consistently aggressive playmaker Ashlynn Hardison. With all of these intangibles the Lady Crusaders ran like a well-oiled machine. Talina Giles and Tyler Evans added speed and agility to the formula, while Sydney Norris and Elizabeth Benton's mature play gave the team an extra spark. Under veteran Coach Wendy Crumpler, the sky was the limit for the talented group of girls.
“When we began practices, I think we all were a little concerned that we only had six players,” said Hardison. “We did have an instant connection as team though because most of us have played sports together for a couple years and we all are good friends. We knew that no matter what our record was, we were going to have fun playing basketball.” It was evident that the girls always had fun as a team. During the games you could catch them laughing and always joking around during practice. When Sydney Norris was asked, if it was hard to find chemistry with her new teammates, she expressed how easy it was to bond with them. “It wasn't hard to find chemistry,” said the freshman who came to Harrells this year. “I played volleyball with a couple of them and the others automatically brought me in and included me, which made me feel very welcomed.” Norris obviously felt at home with her new team from the first game of the season. She proved to not only be a fantastic volleyball player, but also a very talented basketball player. Norris solidified this by taking home the CRC Tournament MVP. As many know, most athletes form their own expectations for the team as they head into the season. The JV Girls exceeded theirs. “I knew we were a strong and consistent team, and plus we are very close as a team, and that's why we were so successful,” said Hardison, who also made the all-tournament team. Norris added onto her teammate's statement by saying that she too felt they had something special. “Honestly, I knew the potential we had to be a great team, and our hard work paid off.”
The Lady Crusaders beat Rocky Mount 34-11 to start the season, with Ashlynn Hardison leading the team to victory by scoring a career high 11 points. Harley Crumpler added 8 points while Sydney Norris had 6 in her JV debut. The girls hit a bump in the road quickly as they lost to Cary Christian by a score of 28-14. “We didn't let the Cary game get us down too much, and that really helped us bounce back and do so great the rest of the year,” Hardison said. “We brushed it off and kept going forward.”
After the loss to Cary, the girls bounced back with a win against Parrott (14-12), but stumbled again with a loss to Freedom Christian Academy (29-20). The Lady Crusaders began an eight game winning streak with a win against Cape Fear Academy in the final game before Christmas break. The Crusaders returned to action after Christmas break against Cape Fear once again, beating the Hurricanes 20-15 on January 8th, 2015.
Harley Crumpler then led the JV Girls to wins against Arendell Parrott Academy (18-14) and Wake Christian Academy (23-12), scoring her season high 10 points in the latter game. To close out the regular season, the Crusaders defeated Cape Fear Academy to complete a perfect conference record in the regular season. Talina Giles and Ashlynn Hardison combined for 12 of the girl’s 14 points in the 14-12 victory.
Throughout the season, Harley Crumpler was undoubtedly the leader of the team, as she flawlessly called the plays on the court. “Taking leadership of the team was a lot of fun,” says Crumpler. “All the girls were supporting of each other and there was minimal need of one person to pick the whole team up. I was honored to help lead this team.” Teammate Ashlynn Hardison bragged on her point guard, calling her a fantastic leader. ''Harley really helped us all get our emotions in line when the intensity of the game would start to get to us. She reeled us back in and got us back on track."
To finish the 2014-2015 campaign, the Lady Crusaders faced Arendell Parrott Academy in the championship game of the CRC Tournament. The Crusaders dominated the first three quarters, as Parrott did not put points on the board until the final seconds of the third. Despite a quick run by APA to cut the lead to eight, HCA gathered their composure and won the game 23-13. The JV Girls finished the season 8-2, won two conference titles, and had three players (Ashlynn Hardison, Tyler Evans, and Sydney Norris) make the all-tournament team.
Despite their depth, the team that consisted of only six girls accomplished things far beyond the expectations set for them at the beginning of the season. They played together as a team throughout every game, which was the second biggest key to their success. The first and most important key was that they played “The Crusader Way” – as a family. At HCA, family is the backbone of success, whether it’s in the classroom or on the basketball court. The 2014-15 Junior Varsity Girls Basketball Team embodied the meaning of what it means to be a family in every way, leading them to one of the best seasons in the school’s Junior Varsity athletics history.