Both Silverdale Baptist teams find themselves in elite company

Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Silverdale Baptist senior guard Kelsie Johnson has helped ignite the Lady Seahawks to a No. 2 ranking in Division II-A with a 19-5 overall record.
Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Silverdale Baptist senior guard Kelsie Johnson has helped ignite the Lady Seahawks to a No. 2 ranking in Division II-A with a 19-5 overall record.

Silverdale Baptist boys' basketball coach Slater Belew pumped his fist as the student section stormed the court in the direction of senior star Brett Wright.

Time stood still for the Seahawks this past Friday night in the Silverdale Center, where Wright's game-winning 3-pointer with 12 seconds left provided a thrilling 55-54 victory over district rival Notre Dame.

"We lost to Notre Dame three times last year on buzzer beaters or last second shots," said Wright, who is Silverdale's leading scorer averaging nearly 18 points and a pair of 3-pointers per game.

"Those losses definitely stay in your head for a long time. Especially when you lose that way in the region semifinals. Having that in the back of my head just made me really lock in on knocking down that shot to help my team."

Wright's game-winner is a microcosm of how well the 2023-24 basketball season has played out for both Seahawk basketball programs.

Silverdale Baptist is the only basketball program in the state to have their boys' and girls' teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Associated Press state polls. There were only nine schools around the state to have both basketball programs in the top 10 rankings, which included Class 2A's Gatlinburg-Pittman who is second in both polls.

In the 25th year of the school's existence, the Seahawks have climbed to the No. 1 ranking in Division II-A. Silverdale improved to 22-1 overall with Monday's pivotal road win over Boyd Buchanan to improve to 7-0 in district play.

The nearly immaculate record to this point is a major leap for a program that had previously never had a 20-win season.

Silverdale's senior starting trio of Houston Holland, Elyjah Richardson and Wright has led the way along with junior big man Kennedy Okpara and sophomore spark plug Judah Richardson, who provided a key steal and go-ahead layup late in last Friday's rally from a nine-point second-half deficit against Notre Dame.

Other notable victories for the Seahawks this season include double-digit wins over Walker Valley, Ezell-Harding, Chattanooga Prep and Bradley Central along with a 28-point win over Signal Mountain a four-point triumph over Webb Bell Buckle and regular season sweep of Notre Dame.

With a win at home this Friday against Boyd Buchanan, the Seahawks would clinch their first ever regular season Division II-A East district championship.

  photo  Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Silverdale Baptist senior Brett Wright, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer at home against Boyd Buchanan last Friday, has helped his team to the state's No. 1 ranking in Division II-A.

"Silverdale basketball has never been as relevant as we are right now," Belew said. "For this team to experience this ride and to have the community and school's overwhelming support has been really cool.

"Being 22-1 is all fine and dandy, but if you don't finish in the postseason then all of that goes by the wayside. We have a lot of work to do and things to clean up, but we are excited about our future."

While a No. 1 state ranking is a sign of their hard work and achievements on the hardwood up to this point, which includes four games of scoring 80 points or more this season, the Seahawks are determined to strive for much more.

"Being ranked where we are means a lot to us, but we don't really think about it," said the 6-foot-5 Wright, who will play for Trevecca-Nazarene in college. "We are focused, humble and just continue to work so we can continue to prove people wrong every day. I am so proud of this team and how we all have worked to make a magical season like this possible."

But the boys' team isn't the only one creating a buzz around the Silverdale campus.

Victor Underwood's Lady Seahawks (20-5, 7-0 district) are ranked No. 2 in Division II-A and are after their sixth district title in the past eight seasons.

Senior guard Kelsie Johnson has limitless range and potential to score 20 points on any given night, while senior guard Taylor Bledsoe has provided a spark along with junior Ella Canter, sophomore forward Braylee Raby and freshman guard Kinsley Owen.

The Silverdale girls have won 10 of their last 11 games, including Monday's road victory over Boyd Buchanan.

"This team has really set their sights on not only winning a district and region title, but also making noise around the state," coach Underwood said. "We have great senior leadership. These girls always bring a joy to practice and high energy. They don't get too high or low. They are consistent in playing hard, honoring the Lord and coming out here with the goal to have fun every day.

"This season has been a lot of fun to see both of our Silverdale varsity teams doing so well. We all work hard every day and it has been great to see the fruits of our labor paying off."

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