North Valley Christian Academy girls basketball team went 2-14 but after their games they are cheerleaders for the 1A school’s No.1 ranked boys team.

Arizona Republic

For an hour and a half, the North Valley Christian Academy girls basketball players are trying to find ways to score baskets.

They usually lose. But it doesn’t change their outlook afterwards. They don’t have time to sulk. They have to get ready for the boys basketball team that usually blows out every team it faces.

They make up 1A school’s cheer team and stunt team. Their stunt/spirit team coach is the Anthem school’s principal, Jason Mitchell.

“We just stay positive,” said junior guard Bella Smith, who finds it easy to flip the emotional switch after losses. “We really enjoy watching the boys and cheering for them. It’s always a positive.”

The boys team, coached by Randy Walker in the school’s third year as a program, found out Wednesday that it is the top seed heading into the 1A state tournament, opening at home Friday night against No.16-seed Fort Thomas, which beat NVCA in last year’s final.

The girls basketball season ended Tuesday with a win, beating Tempe Prep 35-22. It was only its second win of the year, and came three days after absorbing a 47-15 home loss to Phoenix Valley Lutheran. The win came against a team that went 0-14.

Despite finishing 2-14 and being outscored 712-285, the Lions turn into one of the state’s top stunt teams and a passionate group leading the cheers during the boys games after the girls’ games are over.

Eight of the players on the girls basketball team also are cheerleaders or on the stunt team. There are two players from the boys basketball team who also compete on the stunt team.

They quickly change into their cheer outfits and come out recharged for the boys games that follow their games.

The boys team is 15-1, outscoring its opponents on the season 1,089-687. Its only loss came in the opener to defending 2A champion Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep 66-65.

“For them to set aside maybe their hardships that they went through that night, and cheer us on, it means a lot for us,”  said 6-2 senior Braeden Roberts, who averages 13 points and six assists. “It gets the energy going in the building.”

Senior guard Josh Walker, son of head coach Randy Walker, expects nothing different from the cheer team.

“We’re so appreciate of the girls supporting us,” Josh said. “We try to support them on the road and stuff. It’s always nice to have them everywhere we go.”

There are 90 students in the high school and most of them are involved in sports or clubs.

Athletic Director Scott Brown, who served as interim head girls basketball coach this season, said he’s reminded of his days in the Midwest, sharing athletes. 

“Here, I mop the floor, I tape the ankles, I drive the van, I wash the uniforms,” Brown said. “It’s like old-school A.D. The parents here are very supportive to allow the kids to do multiple things.

“These girls never complain. They are so big on the boys team and what they’re doing, they’re excited. Even though they take a tough loss, they take about five minutes, change their clothes, and they’re back out here cheering on the boys like nothing ever happened.”

The girls find their most success on the court on the stunt team. Sometimes, Mitchell, the principal and cheer/stunt coach, has to scramble to find other kids to fill in on his stunt team if an injury occurs to a player in a basketball game.

“They’re able to just flip a switch,” Mitchell said. “Good attitude. They get in, they do what they need to do.”

Senior guard Latonia Hylton, who suffered a recent injury that has kept her from playing basketball and performing on the stunt team, is the school’s valedictorian.

After a hard game, Hylton said coming back out for the boys game lifts her spirits.

“We get to cheer on our guys and they do a good job,” she said. “Changing, however, that’s kind of crazy. It’s chaotic. We only have two or three minutes to change and come to the sidelines and cheer.

“For me, I enjoy it.”

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter @azc_obert.

Support local journalism: Subscribe to today.