This particular Christmas marked a special time for the LeGate family.
As Christmas Eve arrived, Christ Presbyterian Academy’s girls team has hopes that both senior Faith LeGate and eighth-grade sister Savannah can serve up some basketball goodies. They are teammates and key contributors to an 8-2 start by the defending Class AA state champions. Their mother, Becky LeGate, is the coach, and their dad is the assistant.
Basketball is as much a tradition for the LeGates as any holiday ritual. This season is something different, though. It is the first time that Faith and Savannah have been teammates on the same organized team.
“It’s quite an experience, having Savannah on my team, it’s the first time we’ve played together,” Faith, who recently signed with Lipscomb University, said. “It’s a fun experience, and it is particularly special since it’s my senior year.”
Added Savannah: “The first time I went in, I was a little nervous and excited, because it was such a new experience, playing with Faith that first time. But I started to relax as the game went on.”
It was not a coincidence that both girls gravitated to basketball early. Savannah stuck with it through some rough times with her first team.
“I played for the Red Rockets, and we lost every game,” she said, smiling. “But it was good in that I made a lot of friendships, and we had a fun time.”
Since then, she’s traveled down the AAU travel team path similar to the one Faith took and has honed her skills as she enters high school competition. Already, though, she has surpassed her sister in one area: Savannah is 6-foot-1; Faith stands an even 6 feet tall.
Becky LeGate is an undeniably proud mom but recognizes her role as coach presents certain issues related to logistics and perception.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “But at the same time there are big challenges. I don’t want to even give the appearance of showing favoritism, and I can be pretty hard on them during practice. It’s difficult sometimes.”
In practice, she chooses not to have her daughters guard each other in the low post. Instead, Faith goes primarily against another eighth-grader, and Savannah goes primarily against 6-foot-1 senior Lauren Thompson, one of Nashville’s top shot blockers and last year’s state tournament MVP.
“Last week, Faith was sick prior to the game, and I started Savannah, which was her first start, and that was exciting for her,” Becky LeGate said. “Overall I feel blessed, getting to coach my two daughters at the same school and coaching with my husband Kevin.
“There’s a lot to be thankful for.”
The LeGates chose the name Faith from biblical teaching, but Becky and the 6-foot-6 Kevin, who both were standout players at Belmont, didn’t want to follow up by naming their second daughter “Hope” or “Charity.”
“I was reading ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ ” which takes place in Savannah, Becky said. “At the time, I was pregnant with Savannah, and it hit me that might be a good name for her. I ran it by Kevin, and he was all for it.”
CPA basketball is not simply a girls club in the household, though. Kevin LeGate is the school’s assistant athletic director as well as his wife’s assistant coach.
“I think it’s truly unique, having two of our own playing for Becky and myself,” Kevin LeGate said. “And it’s truly something seeing them out there playing together. I think everyone has done a good job of handling the situation, and we’re enjoying it. It’s a neat experience.”
Last year, even though she wasn’t yet on the team, Savannah, who was a seventh-grader, was at the state tournament games in Murfreesboro. She shared in the thrill of the school’s first state basketball title, the team’s 36-3 record and Faith’s performance, which earned her a spot on the all-tournament team.
“Everyone was really excited and pumped up,” she said.
Perhaps their biggest fan is Weldon “Jake” Gibbs, who was the coach at Greenbrier High during the 1980s and whose star player was his 6-foot-1 daughter Becky. As a senior in 1986, she led the team to the AA state semifinals.
Gibbs, 71, still lives in the small Robertson County community of Adams and attends as many CPA games as he can.
“I get to every game I can whenever I can fit it into my time, and it’s been a wonderful experience,” Gibbs said. “The girls really go all out and hustle well, they’re fun to watch.”
And their differences are easy to spot.
“Faith has this determined style of play,” Gibbs said. “One time early on, Faith was the one girl playing against otherwise all boys in a game; she was mixing it up and didn’t back down from anyone. Savannah reminds me a lot of Becky, she’s very quick to the ball. And they keep getting taller. Doctors say Savannah may get as tall as 6-3.
“Faith is very dedicated. Savannah is more happy-go-lucky, but she’s still competitive.”
As for what he sees from the team as a whole, Gibbs keeps to himself.
“I’ve never told Becky what to do,” he said. “If she wants some advice, she certainly knows she can ask for it. Sometimes it’s hard to sit back and not say anything.”
Even so, his presence never goes unnoticed.
“He is very encouraging; he always has a good word for us after games,” Faith said of her grandfather.
Added Savannah: “He’s always so helpful, and he’s a huge fan. He’s a huge fan, and he makes every game he can.”
The sisters enjoyed a first when each scored in double figures in the same game in a recent district win at East Nashville.
Predictably, their respective wish lists have less to do with what’s under the tree than with what lies ahead on the court.
“My more immediate wish is trying to win the Hickman County tournament [next week], then for sure trying to win state again,” Faith said.
“Getting my first double-double,” Savannah said.
Kevin and Becky LeGate will host their extended family for the Christmas holiday, and basketball is certain to be popular topic of conversation.
There is, however, no guarantee that CPA will repeat as state champion. For now, that remains on the wish list — of everyone in the household.