Five seniors led the way in a record-breaking season for boys basketball at Eastern Mennonite High School this season.
It was the first time in school history the team reached the championship game for Division III VISAA (Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association).This year’s team finished the regular season with a #3 ranking in the state (highest ever), which allowed EMS to host a quarter final game for the first time in 29 years.
With a win over Portsmouth Christian in the quarter final, the Flames reached the Final 4 for the first time since 1990. A win over #2 seed Walsingham Academy 52-47 in the semi-final allowed EMHS to reach its first state championship game in school history.
The run ended with 63 to 59 loss to Life Christian Academy March 2, 2018 at Virginia State University.
“It was an amazing year for boys basketball and awesome to see these seniors end their high school basketball experience with such success” says Dave Bechler, the school’s athletic director since 1996 and boys varsity basketball coach from 1996 to 2018, who will leave his role in June.
It was also “awesome,” he noted, to get to share state-wide the support our whole community offers our athletic program.”The fan support we enjoy is not typical,” he explains. “Our community support of all our teams is something other coaches notice and admire.” Between 50 and 100 EMHS fans joined both games, more than three hours drive south of Harrisonburg, joining a fan bus or driving in groups.
“Chad had a great season,” Bechler reflects. “He pulled together all the pieces and the guys set aside any personal accolades for the benefit of the team. I wish him and the team all the best.”
Here are some stats, highlights and facts from the record-breaking season:
– The team record was 13-1 in the VIC Conference, with a loss in the quarter finals at home to eventual champ Roanoke Catholic, ending hopes of taking home the first conference title since 1994..
– The team won 14 straight games from January 5th – February 16th, also a school record.
– The team knocked down a school record 21 three pointers at Shenandoah Valley Academy on December 3.
– Chad Seibert was voted Coach of the Year by peers in the VIC in his first year in the conference.
– Zach Hatter ‘19 was voted VIC Conference Player of the Year.
– Aviwe Mahlong ‘20, of South Africa, was voted first team All-Conference as well as being selected to the All Tournament team. Aviwe had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the championship game.
Chance Church, ‘20 from Waynesboro, also contributed heavily to this year’s team. Chance made 9 three pointers in two seperate games, and scored 19 points in the championship match up with Life Christian.
Adam Hatter ‘22, Waynesboro, was a major contributor off the bench for this year’s squad, scoring 12 points and adding 3 assists in the semi final vs. Walsingham.
At the semi-final game at Virginia State University, Dave Bechler was recognized for his commitment to state-wide basketball by VISAA for 10 years of service on the VISAA State basketball committee.
The team roster included: Gage Anderson ‘21, Gabe Albers ‘21, Zach Bauman ‘19, Ben Bellamy ‘22, Jesse Byler ‘19, Chance Church, ‘20, Adam Hatter ‘22, Zach Hatter ‘19, Will Hess ‘21, Grant Lichty ‘19, Aviwe Mahlong ‘20, Brendan Nussbaum ‘19, Ryan Shank ‘21 (sidelined by a season-ending injury)
View an album of photos from the quarter finals, semi finals and final game here.