Leffew and CAK girls getting ready for II-A state run

By Steve Williams

Christian Academy of Knoxville girls coach Abby Williams likes where her basketball team stands as tournament time nears.

A 59-50 win last week over Knoxville Catholic, a Division II-AA team, gave her what she hoped to see.

“We’re excited,” said Williams. “Anytime you can play an across-the-street rival and a team that’s got a lot of good players and a great coach who runs a great system, it’s good for you and we needed a game like that. I’m really proud of our girls for their effort.”

Keira Leffew, a shooting forward and Lee University signee, scored a career high 29 points and collected 16 rebounds to lead the Lady Warriors, who are 22-5 and one of the top-rated teams in the state in Division II-A.

“Every night Keira carries us,” said Coach Williams. “She’s a big-time player. She’s going to do great at the next level.”

“She wore us out,” said Catholic Head Coach Travis Mains.

CAK seniors Madi Jones and Emily Wilson added 10 and eight points, respectively. Wilson also had four assists.

Sydney Mains and Amaya Redd tallied 10 points apiece for the Lady Irish, a highly regarded team despite its 13-11 record.

The game itself was pretty much nip and tuck through the first three quarters. Catholic briefly led by eight (22-14) after a baby hook by Maggie Frana midway into the second period.

After Catholic freshman Evaiya Mitchell contributed a four-point flurry late in the third quarter, CAK snuck ahead by one (38-37) on a rebound basket by Leffew in the closing minute.

But the game was still anyone’s to win at the midway point of the final quarter when freshman Logan Connatser’s 3-pointer at the top of the circle gave the Lady Irish a 44-43 lead.

An ensuing 11-2 run by the Lady Warriors, however, was too much to overcome. Wilson sparked the flurry with two 3-point baskets and Leffew scored inside and added two free throws to make it 53-46 with 1:53 to go.

CAK went into keep-away mode and Catholic never got closer than six.

“They made more plays in the end than we did,” said Coach Mains. “We just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket.”

Leffew didn’t have that problem. She made 10 of 13 field goals and eight of 11 free throws in her big night. She shared the spotlight after the game, too. “We had some people to come off the bench like Karlie Whited, who hit a big 3 for us. Emily Wilson also was making some great passes to me down low and I got several points off that.

“Playing as a team,” Keira added was the key to the win.

Three of CAK’s losses came in the first two weeks of the season and one was to Division II-AA Webb just before Christmas. Catholic has been its only other II-AA opponent. CAK also has wins over Division I’s Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett, Oak Ridge and McMinn Central.

“Tonight was the night that I wanted to see what we were made of,” said Williams. “Tonight was the night that an opponent was going to come in and rival what a post-season was going to look like for us. I wanted to see how we performed. I thought (after it was over), Okay, we can do this.”

Coach Williams is now looking forward to seeing what the future has in store for her team.