The Mekeel Christian Academy girls’ basketball team is following the lead of its boys’ basketball team, and will play an independent schedule beginning in the 2020-21 season.
Mekeel girls’ coach and athletic director Kelsey Collins said his team was recently granted permission to leave the Western Athletic Conference after a unanimous vote of consent by its athletic directors. Mekeel’s upcoming schedule will include games against Schenectady, Shaker, Cambridge and Bishop Ludden, and an appearance at Amsterdam’s annual Christmas-time showcase against opponents to be determined.
“The boys had some success with it,” Collins said. “It will be good for the program. Good for the school. It’s the right time to do it.”
The Mekeel boys left the WAC and went independent beginning in the 2017-18 season. They won the state Class B championship that season, and won the Section II Class A title this past season before further play was postponed and eventually canceled due the coronavirus pandemic.
“The idea is you want to get tough as the season goes on. You want to face challenges,” said Mekeel Head of School and boys’ basketball coach Chad Bowman. “It [playing independent] prepares you for the postseason. It’s been good for us. I think it will be good for them. It makes sense for them.”
In recent years, the Mekeel girls played numerous lopsided games against WAC opponents, and Collins is looking forward to a more consistent stream of competitive games as a lead-in to the playoffs.
Mekeel won league games this past season by 70, 64, 60, 51, 50 and 49 points.
“Us going up to Northville and winning by 50 doesn’t help. Duanesburg is a team on the rise and we beat them by 30 this year,” Collins said. “I’d rather lose by 20 and learn something. We need to step out a little bit just like the boys did.”
Since winning the Section II Class C title in 2017, the Mekeel girls have made a trio of Section II final four appearances. Mekeel lost in championship games in 2018 (Class C) and this past season (Class B), and lost in the semifinals in 2019 (Class B).
“Going independent is going to be really exciting,” said Mekeel eighth-grader Avery Mills, who led the 21-3 Lions in scoring this past season. “It’s going to make me better and make the team better.”
Collins said he discussed the move to independent status with Bowman and received his backing before submitting a letter to the WAC administrators.
“I did not vote,” Collins said. “The letter was my vote.”
As a stipulation to the move, according to Collins, Mekeel would have to wait two years if it wants to return to the WAC.
“A lot of things came into play,” Bowman said. “Kelsey played here and works here, and I don’t see him going anywhere anytime soon. Knowing the program is in good hands gave me confidence to make this move.”