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Cathedral starts basketball

SELMA — For basketball coaches Jamie Tellier and Roxanne Jones, every game is a road game.

That’s because Cathedral Academy of Selma doesn’t have a gym yet. What the school of 100 students does have is its inaugural boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, which started the season Monday night in Moody against East Central Christian Home School.

In a difficult economy, Tellier — the school’s athletic director and boys’ basketball coach — said basketball is the next easiest one after baseball to start based on expenses.

“We started last year with baseball,” said Tellier, who has 11 boys on the Lions basketball team. “More kids at the school wanted to be involved with athletics, and this is the next dimension.”

What it means for the first-year teams is riding the bus a lot.

“The bad thing for us because we have no gym, every game is a road game,” Tellier said.

The Lions, which are members of the Alabama Christian School Conference, hold practices at Crescent Hill Presbyterian’s gymnasium.

Of the two Cathedral teams, Tellier’s boys have the most experience. Drawing from eighth- to 12th-graders, the squad has three seniors.

Tellier said his basketball philosophy is “Defense is the best offense.”

Ninth-grade point guard Tekove Wilson, one of the boys’ team captains, said the Lions are improving as the season begins.

“We’re doing good for being the first year,” he said. “We’ve been working a lot on defense.”

The other boys’ team captain, senior shooting guard Jonathan Todd, said bringing a new team to school has been good.

“We’re having a good first year,” he said.

Tellier, who got his coaching experience on the West Coast, grew up in California. He moved to Selma six years ago. He coached high school varsity basketball in California for three years.

Tellier said the school and parents have supported both teams, and the boys have been excited about playing.

“It’s a big deal to be the first players to have a Lions jersey on,” he said, adding he was proud of his team’s tenacity. The Lions lost by only 5 points Monday in their opener.

“We will not give up until the final whistle is blown,” he said.

Jones’s 10 girls start younger, with varsity players coming from the sixth through 12th grades.

“All of the girls are young, with only two in high school,” she said. “We’re building from the foundation up. This is the first time I’ve started a team from scratch.”

Jones, who played at Morgan Academy and Huntingdon College, taught at Dallas County High School for six years and coached basketball for three.

The inexperience of her squad comes through for Jones because some players had not even seen a game in person.

“Monday night, that was the first game many girls had played,” Jones said. “It was the first live basketball game some girls had even seen.”

Because the Lady Lions are a first-year team, they will be the underdogs in most games.

“We definitely will play above our heads in every game,” Jones said. “(On Thursday), we play New Life of Millbrook, which is also a first-year team. It will set the tone of how we’re going to do.”

Neither of Jones’s team captains — 10th-grader Kelsey Irwin and senior Tiffany Ingram — have played organized basketball. They have their important qualities, however.

“They know how to play sports,” Jones said. “They are very good leaders on the court.”

Both girls said they also are excited about the new sport and the new season.

“I think we’ll be a good team … eventually,” Irwin said.

Ingram said the road games are helping the Lady Lions in some ways.

“The best thing about playing on the road all the time is we are becoming a team by being together,” she said.

Jones said the team has been working hard in the early stages. “Our ball-handling skills have improved tremendously.”

Because both coaches have been molding their teams literally from the basic skills, they believe the younger players will develop into superior athletes.

“In two to three years, I can see where we can compete for a state title,” Jones said.

One Selma game that qualifies as a road game will be Dec. 17, when Cathedral Academy visits Central Christian Academy. The girls’ game begins at 5:30 p.m.