Christ School Wins State Hoops Title - TribPapers

Christ School Wins State Hoops Title

Keenan Wilkins is at left in the front row. Photo courtesy of Christ School.

Arden – Christ School Greenies won the 4A private school state basketball title, with Keenan Wilkins of Hendersonville as its leading scorer for the entire championship season.

Wilkins averaged 14.1 points to pace the Greenies. The uber-swift guard averaged 27 points in 2021-22 as a Hendersonville Bearcat junior. As a sophomore, he and fellow guard Dwight Canady helped HHS end up as the 2A state runner-up among public schools. Rules enable a transferring student to roll back his eligibility timetable by one season. Thus, Wilkins is a junior at Christ School and can return in 2023–24 to help the Greenies try to repeat as champions.

Dethroning the Cougars

In the state title game, the Greenies (31-4) led most of the way in knocking off the top-ranked Carmel Christian Cougars (28-4) — the reigning champs — by 53-48 on Feb. 25. The Greenies raced to a commanding 16-7 lead and held on to lead 25-22 at halftime and by one point after the third period.

“Even when (Carmel) went on runs, we stayed solid,” their second-year head coach Josh Coley stated. “I’m very proud of them.”

Christ School’s leading scorers in the title win were senior Emanuel Richards with 16 points, junior Jamari Briggs with 12 points, and junior Bryson Cokley with ten points. Wilkins scored seven points. Richards, a 6-foot-4 wing, averaged 12.1 points and a team-best 1.6 steals in 2022–23. He was the Carolinas Athletic Association player of the year.

Richards and 6-10 senior Anthony Robinson were selected to the NCISAA 4A all-state team. Both are two-time all-CAA. Robinson had eight “double-doubles” and averaged 8.7 for both rebounds and points. He is committed to playing for South Florida. Both standouts played March 4 in the tenth annual N.C. Private School All-Star Game in Charlotte.

Championship Legacy

This is Christ School’s seventh N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association basketball title in the last 19 years. The prior six titles were in a seven-year span. The Greenies won it all in 2005 and in 2007–11 under head coach David Gaines. The 2005 squad’s stars included twin guards Chavis and Travis Holmes, now Carmel assistant coaches. They are among 12 former Greenies who played professional basketball overseas.

The most famed hoops alumni are the three towering Plumlee brothers. They are Miles (class of 2008), Mason (2009), and Marshall Plumlee (2011). All three played at Duke and in the NBA. All three were Duke students in 2011–12, when Marshall, now 30 years old, was a redshirted freshman. Christ School won state titles in all four of Marshall Plumlee’s seasons there and won 139 of 150 games.

Seven-foot Mason was the NBA’s 22nd overall pick in 2013. He still plays in the NBA, now with the Clippers. He turned 33 on March 5. Three days earlier, Mason pulled down 20 rebounds and scored 12 points. Miles, 34, also won an NCAA national title with Duke in 2010. He was the 26th pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Miles plays for the Perth Wildcats in Australia’s pro league.

Christ School’s latest crown is in the program’s 100th season. Normally, the Greenies are prime contenders year after year. They had a rare downturn, going 3-13 in the pandemic-shortened 2020–21 season.

Drastic Turnaround

Months later, in summer 2021, Coley became the new head coach. Many current stars joined the program soon afterward.

The Greenies did not demolish every foe in 2022–23. One-fourth of their wins were by five points or fewer. But they were ready for a close championship contest. “Those close games prepared us. The hard practices prepared us,” Coach Coley said. “That’s why our guys never wavered down the stretch. They showed the same grit that we’ve had all year. They were mentally tough. They were locked in.”
Coach Coley said “they were patient with our plan” in the title game and throughout his two seasons at the helm. “They’ve never wavered. They’ve grown so much. I really appreciate them for trusting us to coach them.”