History was going to be on the line.
Playing its best basketball of the season, the Legacy Christian Academy boys basketball team was set to go for its first-ever trip to the state tournament March 13. Then, hours before the scheduled tip off of the Section 4A championship game, the Minnesota State High School League’s winter sports season shut down due to COVID-19 virus closures, abruptly ending the team’s season.
As it was, the Lions had already achieved their best record and most wins in school history at 24-4. Most importantly, the team accomplished what it aimed to do at the start of the season: set a new standard for the program.
“Everyone is bummed about how the season ended,” Legacy Christian Academy head coach Nathan Bellefeuille said. “We believed in our chance to be the first team in Legacy boys basketball history to make it to the state tournament.
“However, that wasn’t our focus throughout the season. Our goal was to change the future of the boys basketball program. Regardless of the outcome of the section final, we would have walked away from that game knowing we accomplished our goal. I was impressed with the perspective our young men had with the news and how they recognized there are people and families going through a lot worse than the cancellation of a section final game and state tournament. Their responses made me even more proud to be their coach.”
Legacy Christian, which earned the No. 2 seed in Section 4A, was rolling, powering past PACT Charter 75-38 in the section quarterfinals and routing Trinity School 58-30 in the semifinals for its 10th win in a row. The victories set up what was to be a showdown against top-seeded Christ’s Household of Faith in the finals.
“Our team was definitely playing their best basketball at the end of the season,” Bellefeuille said. “We had several games throughout the year where we had to come from behind to win in the final minutes, or games where we had a lead and focused on valuing each possession so we could extend that lead. All of those things came together in the section quarters with our big victory over PACT. PACT was a team that gave us some trouble early in the season where we sneaked away with a three-point win in the final minutes. We shot 50 percent from three in the quarters and our defense was firing on all cylinders. That continued into the semis where we held Trinity to 21 percent from the field and 10 percent from three.
“We had some key players playing really well at the end of the season and that was a big part of our success. Junior captain Jake Wald was our floor general and playmaker all season. He finished the year averaging 19 points, six assists and nearly three steals per game. Our junior forward Brian Halcomb was our sixth man all year and was close to averaging a double-double the last five games with 15 points and eight rebounds per game. He is a player we are very excited about heading into next season. Our senior guards Primeau Hill and Carson Sharp were stellar on defense, each getting close to three steals a game. Their leadership all season was crucial to our success.”
Across the board, it was a big step up from a year ago, when the Lions went 9-18.
“I think the biggest difference was the team’s belief in how good they really could be,” Bellefeuille said. “Being last year was our staff’s first year in the program, we really had to spend a lot of time getting the team to believe they could win games. We had really good leadership from our seniors and our captains and we worked together to get this team playing with a lot of confidence. There were some systematic changes where we played a faster style and that definitely helped. We had some key wins early in the year over teams we hadn’t beat in a long time and that helped us become more confident in the team we could be.”
While it didn’t get its chance to break through and make it to state this year, the potential for big things ahead has opened up for Legacy Christian, with this season’s roster paving the path for future success.
“With a group of 10 juniors this season, the team has big goals heading into next season and we want to continue the progress we have made the last two years,” Bellefeuille said. “We have summer workouts and weight lifting organized for our players grades 5-12. Our team’s schedule next year will definitely prepare us to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“I could not be more proud of what this team accomplished this season. Breaking the records for most wins in a season and best record in school history is awesome. Even bigger than that, we had the most kids out for our middle school teams that we ever have. We had our community excited about watching basketball again. We had alumni coming back to cheer on the team. Our players were rock stars in the classroom. That is the type of change we were focused on throughout the season.”