Volunteer coach leads team to first-ever state championship

Very few programs can go from one win to the playoffs in one year. The Christian Academy of Louisiana in Addis (CAL) took it several steps further by going from one win to state champions.

The Crusaders capped off its amazing turnaround with a 67-43 victory over The Brighton School in the Association of Christian Educators of Louisiana (ACEL) Division II championship game Saturday at Louisiana Christian University.

Anthony Shepard was the game’s MVP , Talon Donnelly added 16 points and Pablo Coloma, an exchange student from Spain scored 15 points but you have to rewind to the beginning of the season to realize the Crusaders’ journey to the top of the basketball mountain.

The program started three years ago with Terrance Watkins as the head coach and Mark Hebert as his assistant. Watkins was a Baton Rouge Police officer for 28 years before he retired and began working at the Christian Academy in charge of campus security.’

Watkins’ devotion paid off this season as the team sported a 9-4 regular season record, which earned them the top seed in the playoffs. Watkins was recognized as the coach of the year.

Mark Hebert has been an assistant coach with Watkins since the program started and Roderick “RJ” Davis joined the staff midseason this to help add to the program.

“These kids are his life. He devotes everything he has to those kids,” said Jennie Wooley, who is Coloma’s host mother. “He (Watkins) considers every one of these kids his own. He will do whatever he can to make sure these boys become good men.”

Wooley said one of the team-building exercises Watkins did with the team was to bring them to a New Orleans Pelicans game, something most of them hadn’t done before and may not have the chance to do again.

She said the coach’s passion and commitment are the stories behind the team’s successful season.

“He is so genuine,” she said. “The person that he is this week and the heart and soul he gave to help them win is the same heart and soul he’s given to this team since the beginning. Their record doesn’t reflect how much he does for those kids.”

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