By Gracy Howard (originally published in PHC Herald, 3/4/11). Pictures by Art Cox.
Patrick Henry College
Sentinels team captain James Nelson heading for the basket
The PHC men’s basketball team was up by 10 points, but Mid-Atlantic University was in a full-court press. As soon as team captain James Nelson got the ball out of bounds on the baseline, he glanced over at senior Adam Fisher, who sprinted behind the defense. Nelson promptly fired a long baseball pass down court to Fisher, who took it in for a two-handed slam-dunk.
It was the first dunk in the history of PHC basketball, and a memorable way for the Sentinels to end their season. They won the game 77-68.
It has not been an easy season for the Sentinels; they began their season without players Brett Harris and Adam Fisher, who both had other commitments. And PHC’s rigorous academic schedule, as well as moot court and debate practice and competitions, often interfered with game times.
Coach Bruce Campbell noted that the return of both Fisher and Harris at the beginning of the second semester, as well the noticeable impact of freshman Nick Ziegenhagen, who began playing with the team, boosted the Sentinels for their stretch run into the schedule.
“I noticed a lot of cohesion develop as the season went on,” Fisher said. “We learned each other’s rhythms and from that we were able to improve significantly.”
The team experienced a significant drawback this semester when both Jordan Sillars, perhaps the team’s best shooter and ball handler, and Jared McKinney were lost to injuries.
“Losing Jordan in the second semester was a bummer,” Nelson said. “I was surprised that we did as well as we did without him.”
Yet, despite setbacks, the team continued to build momentum; teams they had lost badly to at the beginning of the season became beatable opponents in the season’s second-half. The Sentinels won three of their last five games, and Fisher set a one-game scoring record of 41 points.
Coach Campbell hopes to continue building the program and encouraging fan support, especially for home games at the beautiful Barbara Hodel Center. “Part of my goal as coach here is to give the student body an event they enjoy going to,” he said.
The Sentinels enjoyed a big turnout at their last home game against Washington Bible College two weeks ago, when over 200 students showed up in white and blue.
“I think one of my favorite memories was the last home game,” Fisher said. “having 200-plus screaming people at a game is one of the single best experiences in basketball.”
Perhaps the season’s biggest highlight took place immediately after Fisher’s dunk in the Mid-Atlantic University game, when players from both teams gathered in a circle to pray. The other team’s coach spoke up and told the Sentinels how much he appreciated their attitude and spirit.
“We would rather lose to you than any team we play,” he said.
“That sort of sums up one of the main purposes of playing a sport as a son of God,” Campbell said, “and the team exemplifies that very well.”