A 'chemistry' lesson: Guard duo leads CFCA to best start in 4 years

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 1/14/22

Cape Fear Christian Academy's talented backcourt talks team chemistry in the midst of a breakout 2021-22 season.

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A 'chemistry' lesson: Guard duo leads CFCA to best start in 4 years

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ERWIN — A challenging 2020-21 season saw the Cape Fear Christian Academy girls basketball team go winless through league play. 

It's a crippling campaign that seems like ages ago for sophomore guard Ella John Dupree, given the team's blazing start this year. 

"This conference that we're in has always been tough, but we're hanging right in there now," Dupree said following a 57-7 home win over Berean Baptist that improved CFCA's Sandhills Athletic Conference record to 3-0 and its overall mark to 9-2. 

"Last year we were down, but this year we have a great chance of (finishing) at least top three."

The Lady Eagles haven't won more than three SAC games since joining the league in 2017-18,  including last season's 0-8 showing.

Now, the squad is almost sure to set a new standard after sweeping Berean and securing a rivalry win over Northwood Temple on Jan. 5– a first for Dupree since joining varsity as an eight-grader two years ago. 

"We've always had good talent ... but this year, it's about our team chemistry," she said, averaging 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 steals which are all career highs. 

Meanwhile, the team's leading scorer and playmaker is junior floor general Cailee Ray, who is dropping in nearly 14 points and over two assists per contest. 

Though it's just her first stint with the team after transferring in following basketball season a year ago, Ray agrees that a lot of the early success is due to a bond developed before hoops season even begins. 

"With Ella John, it's fun because we can see eye-to-eye on everything," Ray said.  "I know where she's at all the time on the court." 

"A lot of us that play softball (at CFCA) play travel ball together, too. And so our chemistry together is really close and we know what each other can do." 

Ray was a key cog in the Lady Eagles' run to another N.C. Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) 1A Softball State Championship final last season.

A handful of those teammates also join her and Dupree on the hardwood this winter, making for a competitive, spry bunch. 

"I guess we just have a lot of athletic people on the team. We're all fast and we can keep up with each other," Ray said. "And I just feel like we all work really hard." 

Dupree says one of the major differences between last season is adding first-year head coach Dwain Ellis, who collaborates with assistants Jeremy Brock and Beth Brocious to create schemes and drills that translate to wins come gamedays. 

"They're amazing. They work with us. They take time with us. They really want us to succeed," Dupree said. 

"I come on the court feeling confident ... because they work with us in practice to the point where we just know when we come out there, we're gonna do what we need to do– and there's no doubt about it."

Dupree has enjoyed the team's turnaround through the early portion of its schedule, and wants them to stay focused as tough league matchups still await before postseason competition begins this February. 

Up next, the Lady Eagles take a short break from their conference routine to play Richmond County as part of Saturday's MLK Dream Jam showcase at Terry Sanford High.   

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com.

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