A special team looks to go out with a bang
Something special will come to an end later this winter. Christian Life Academy, a Christian school in Farmington that serves grades pre-K through high school, has a dominant girls basketball team led by four seniors. Those four have played together since they were freshmen and, as of this week, are in possession of a remarkable streak: the Hawks have won or tied 42-straight games in the regular and postseason against conference opponents according to the Star Tribune's MN Girls' Basketball Hub.
How it began
Their head coach is Peder Eide, who's daughter Allison is one of those four seniors.
"I took over when my daughter was in eighth grade, her and Sydney (Krall) were two eighth-graders who got moved to varsity," coach Eide said of his first year as the girls' head coach, during the 2013-14 season. "I was the assistant boys (basketball) coach for a couple years and then they asked me if I wanted to take the head girls job. The first year we were losing a lot of games by a lot, squeaking wins, they were trying to get used to me and I was trying to get used to them. The next year, my second year, I started four freshmen, the four seniors you see now; Holly Anderson, Maria Norman, Allison and Sydney."
Since those four started their freshman year, the Hawks have gone undefeated in three different conferences. The first two years they were in the Eastern Minnesota Athletic Conference and went a remarkable 21-0-1. Last year the large Twin Cities Athletic Conference was created and they went 16-0 against TCAC opponents in the regular and postseason. So far this season, with the TCAC divided into smaller divisions, CLA is 5-0 and counting, with a 9-6 overall record.
Eide said the team knows they have a target on their back with such a streak. No better example is the rivalry between CLA and Nova Classical, who they beat four times last year alone in several tight, and at times dramatic games. In the last game, which came during section playoffs, Allison Eide made a shot at the buzzer to give the Hawks the win after they had not led the entire game.
"Those four seniors, they are a very special group of girls because they've played together since they were in eighth-grade," Eide said. "I would say there is such a great understanding between them, they just know where each other are on the floor. Sydney and Allison have a great rapport, if Allison drives, she knows exactly where Sydney or Holly or Maria will be. The best thing about those girls, no one complains about not getting the ball enough or getting enough touches. Maria and Holly can play any position, we've played Holly (who stands at 5-foot-8) in the post, we've put Sydney (who is 6-foot) at point guard."
Christian Life Academy plays an up-tempo, transition-based style that is surprising given their school size (an enrollment of 56 in 2015-16 according to the Minnesota State High School League) and the resulting lack of depth due to numbers. However, Eide said the style of play suits the girls.
"It's fun and the girls seem to thrive off being able to run the court, they have more energy when they do," he said. "The hard part for us is that we're not a super deep team. We started it when they were freshmen and they just seemed to love it. Part of it, when you pick an offense and a defense as a coach, you obviously have to look at what you have, what's your ability, but also ask them (the players) what do they love doing."
Christian Life Academy is in class A, but routinely schedule nonconference games with teams in 2A. Eide said that they are always seeking better competition as their goal, especially this year, and to go deeper in the section playoffs than they ever have before (they lost to Maranatha last season in sections, but they have moved up to 2A for this season).
In order to play how they do, the Hawks need the personnel to pull it off and the four seniors mentioned above fit that order. They are led by Allison Eide, who is the definition of a floor general. Eide has a tight handle, has the vision to pass all over the floor and can pass with either hand. She was fourth in the state of Minnesota in total assists (155) and assists per game (6.0) last season. Eide can score from 3-point range, mid-range and at the basket (by far her strength), which helped her average more than 19 points per game last season, which put her in the top-20 in the state as well. On top of all that, she is a pest defensively, racking up 182 steals last season, which was second in the state. If there is one criticism of her game, it's that she sometimes is not as aggressive as she could be offensively, and looks to make the right play sometimes when she has the ability to take over games. Overall, Eide is not afraid of contact or to get dirty on the basketball floor.
"The physical part I think is the best, because I just love the aggression of the game" she said. "How strong and athletic you have to be, and having the touch and body control. All that as an athlete you're able to do."
She has committed to playing basketball next season at Bethel University.
Next is Krall, a very athletic post-player who can jump out of the gym, a trait which she uses to excel both on the basketball and volleyball court. Krall used her height and leaping ability to pull in 305 total rebounds last year for 11.7 per game, ranked sixth in Minnesota. Coach Eide said she might just be the fastest player on the court and this season has demonstrated the ability to handle the ball and bring it up the court when needed.
Both Eide and Krall have experience on the AAU basketball circuit in Minnesota, where they both play for the faith-based Minnesota Crossfire organization. Both credited their continued development partially to the competition they routinely faced while playing for the Crossfire.
"The girls are way more physical, they're all tall and they're all aggressive," Krall said. "It's fun."
Anderson and Norman both do a little bit of everything for the Hawks. Anderson plays primarily out on the perimeter, helping Eide in ball-handling duties and is a solid shooter from 3-point range for CLA. Norman is a fighter down low for rebounds and put backs (as is Anderson), but is also able to operate on the perimeter or high post and showed the ability to feed Krall with lob passes.
The Hawks are 9-6 overall this season, 5-0 in conference and are winners of four straight. They traveled to St. Paul Prep on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and then host rival Nova Classical on Friday, Jan. 26.
Despite how the rest of the season turns out for the girls, and whether the streak stays alive, coach Eide said he will always remember this group.
"I'm just so grateful for these girls, they all have my heart, every single one of them in some way," he said.