The climb has taken awhile. There have been hardships along the way.
But the Nashville Christian School girls nearly have reached the district peak.
Relegated to the middle of the pack in 10-A standings in recent years, NCS can reach the top when it hosts Houston County on Tuesday. NCS is 10-1 in the district (11-7 overall) and trails only Houston County at 9-0 (17-4 overall).
The matchup gives the Eagles an opportunity to avenge their lone district loss.
“This team is as together as any I’ve ever played on,” said 5-foot-7 junior wing Bailey Maddox, the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game. “And this is our time, our year to shine.
“And it’s not all about one player. Each of us has made significant contributions to our success. Even the girls on the bench are so good with all their spirit and encouragement.”
Added 5-foot-4 senior guard Savannah Womack: “No. 2 is not good enough. This team is different in that we’ve been able to play up to the level of our competition. And we’ve been very good about focusing on each game, working on what we need to do.”
The architect of the NCS surge is seventh-year coach Brandon Wood, who guided his team to the region semis last year. He was MVP of the state tournament when he guided Battle Ground Academy boys to the 1993 Class A championship.
“Without a doubt,” Wood said when asked if this was his best team. “The girls have been buying into everything we’re telling them. It’s a very unselfish group, no one is worried about how many shots or how many points they’re going to get.
“Bailey is someone who can score, but she has become an all-around complete player. Her defense and rebounding have improved. I think she’s one of the top players in the surrounding area.”
The Eagles’ top three scorers all are juniors. After Maddox come point guard Kendall Lewis, the team’s assists leader (3.1 per game) and post Kayla Baker.
Maddux scored her 1,000th point in a recent victory.
“That was quite humbling,” she said. “In fact, I was shocked. With a lot of us playing two sports, we have come to encourage one another.”
Womack also plays softball and this week received a scholarship offer from Union for that sport. Maddox also plays soccer.
“We do a lot of stuff together,” Womack said laughing. “Recently, we went downtown and played some laser tag.”
It hasn’t been easy for Wood and NCS. Prior to this season a two-year starter moved to Spring Hill, and another two-year starter transferred to FRA.
In all, six quality players have moved on for one reason or another in the past three years.
“It’s been hard to deal with,” Wood said. “But the girls we have here now are very dedicated and they are trying to reach their goals.”
Each player has provided a piece to the puzzle.
“Regardless of whether it’s me or Bailey or really all of us, it’s helped us reach the level we’ve been trying to reach,” Womack said.
On Dec. 11, Houston County beat NCS 67-61 in overtime in Erin. The Eagles hope to turn the tables Tuesday night.
“We can gauge ourselves by how far we have come,” Maddox said.
“It’s our turn,” Womack said. “We’re not settling for second best.”
Antioch at Smyrna
Battle Ground Academy at Ensworth
Brentwood Academy at Harpeth Hall (girls), 5:30 p.m.
Brentwood Academy at Montgomery Bell Academy (boys), 6 p.m.
Cane Ridge at McGavock
Centennial at Hillsboro
Donelson Christian Academy at St. Andrews-Sewanee
East Nashville at Christ Presbyterian Academy
Father Ryan at Pope John Paul II
Franklin Road Academy at Ezell-Harding
Houston County at Nashville Christian School
Lipscomb Academy at Pearl-Cohn
Hillwood at Glencliff
Hunters Lane at Overton
M.L. King at Stratford
Whites Creek at Maplewood