The Golden Bears are off to their best start in years with a 10-3 overall record and 2-0 mark in 5A.
Holy Innocents’ has held its own so far in a tough early season schedule — beating Class AAAAA crosstown rival Riverwood (63-47) and ranked Class A teams St. Francis (67-54), Landmark Christian (71-50) and Hebron Christian (57-46) in four of its first five games.
The Bears also lost a 71-65 overtime decision to AAAAAA team Brookwood during the early portion of the 2012-13 campaign.
“We’re excited about what has happened in the [early part of the season],” Holy Innocents’ coach Terry Kelly said. “We beat three ranked teams. We have had a tough [early season] schedule and that’s helping prepare us for our region schedule.”
A veteran lineup and a deep roster have been the key elements for the success that Holy Innocents’ has enjoyed so far, according to Kelly.
“We have a number of seniors who have been on the varsity for four years and who are really gelling together,” he said. “A part of the reason [for our success] is that we have tremendous depth. This is the deepest team that we’ve had in a long time.”
Holy Innocents’ passed a big test when it finished third in the Holiday Hoops Classic in Memphis, Tenn., featuring some of the top teams in the Memphis area, in late December.
The Golden Bears lost to Millington Central (Tenn.) 53-45 Dec. 27, but came back with a convincing 70-35 victory over Brighton (Tenn.) Dec. 28 and a 42-40 win over Fayette (Tenn.) in the consolation game Dec. 29.
“We played three public schools from Memphis — three very good teams,” Kelly said. “It gave us a chance to get away from our usual routine and play some different teams. It was a good challenge for us.”
Holy Innocents’ has gotten a big boost from the addition of 6-foot-1 junior guard Darryl Stewart, a transfer from Los Angeles who is leading the team in scoring with about 16 points a game.
Stewart teams up with 6-2 sophomore guard Sam Asbury to provide an offensively potent backcourt for the Bears.
“They’re a pretty good scoring combo,” Kelly said. “Both can attack the basket and they can also score from the perimeter.”
Six-foot-6 junior forward Josh Ledbetter also provides offensive punch as the third-leading scorer behind Stewart and Asbury.
Six-foot-7 senior twin brothers Jim Voyles and Ed Voyles gives Holy Innocents’ an inside presence, with each averaging eight rebounds a game.
Holy Innocents’ faces its biggest test in the next month as it enters the main part of its schedule in a competitive 5A that includes crosstown rival Mount Vernon Presbyterian and other state powerhouses such as Greenforest Christian, W.D. Mohammed and Landmark Christian.
“It’s a very, very competitive region,” Kelly said. “We have never played a lot of the teams in our region before and that will make it more challenging for us. But, the [early season] schedule was challenging on purpose, because it prepared us for the region schedule.”