Santa Fe Christian boys hoop team looks to sustain, build on winning ways
The Santa Fe Christian boys basketball team has run off a string of six consecutive 20-win seasons and over that span won a trio of CIF Division I championships, one CIF State D-I title and earned a berth in the San Diego section’s Open Division field twice. Yet, it’s all still somewhat remarkable to the Eagles’ 17th-year Head Coach Chad Bickley.
“I would say about eight or nine years ago, our teams were competitive and all but I always had a dream that our small, Christian school would be able to sustain its success and do it while playing against the best teams in the section,” said Bickley, who’s racked up nearly 300 victories at SFC which has an enrollment of under 500 students. “Seven years ago the CIF allowed for that possibility by creating a system that aligned schools according to competitive results instead of just size.
“We were Division IV at the time, moved to Division II that first year, jumped to Division I the next and have been there ever since. Just being in the mix with the top schools, year-in and year-out, has been the realization of that dream.
“Beating a team like Torrey Pines a few weeks ago still seems very surreal. I feel like our program’s respected and that’s where we want to be.”
Playing at their familiar breakneck pace on both ends of the floor, combining an aggressive, ball-hawking defense with a fearless, multi-faceted attack, Bickley’s charges sport a sterling, 11-3, record so far this season and appear well-positioned to build on the legacy that’s been established. Heading into the brunt of the Coastal League schedule, the Eagles have won eight of their last nine. The quick start was not really surprising given the veteran nature of this year’s roster.
Bickley has three seniors and a pair of juniors in his starting lineup. All played significant roles in 2021-22. The lion’s share of the of the scoring output comes from junior Brycen MacKenzie and Bickley’s senior son, Drew, who average 20.2 and 13.1 points per game respectively.
The pair are both reliable three-point threats. The relentless MacKenzie is a non-stop initiator who has no hesitation whether popping from the outside or slashing to the bucket. The left-handed Bickley, meanwhile, has improved both his rebounding prowess and ability to use the defensive attention he draws to create things for teammates.
“Brycen’s been pretty consistent scoring in different ways and when Drew scores in double figures, we’re pretty tough to beat,” said the 46-year-old Bickley. “They’re usually the players our opponents are scouting against and when that happens, they may not always have a great game but it typically means the floor will be opened up for everyone else.”
Rounding out the starting five are seniors Jeremy Love and Daniel Greathouse and junior Greyson Mundis. Love, a defensive stopper who’s also at home attacking the rim, and Greathouse, at 6-4, three inches taller than any of the other starters, are the squad’s top two rebounders. Hitting at a 38% clip from behind the arc, Greathouse also provides another outside weapon.
The tough-minded Mundis is an under-the-radar all-around contributor, whether defending persistently on the perimeter, generating ball movement or putting up a shot. The Eagles are at their best when all five are part of the flow.
“When Daniel, Jeremy and Greyson are all contributing, we’re pretty good,” said Bickley. That was on display last Friday night as Santa Fe Christian shook off some lethargic play early and steamrolled Bishop Manogue (Reno), 72-53, in their final game of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. Down 10 early in the third quarter, Bickley switched SFC from its customary man-to-man defense into a zone look that baffled Bishop Manogue and led to the Eagles out-scoring the Miners, 44-19, in the second half. MacKenzie drained six treys and finished with 32 points. Bickley chipped in with 17.
And while it appears things are running on all cylinders, SFC’s head man may be even more enthusiastic about the upside of his club, due in large part to an unexpected addition.
Just last week, 6-7 Victory Christian transfer, Jayden Lucket, the nephew of Santa Fe Christian girls’ basketball coach Vickie Carrington, became eligible. His presence could signal a significant upturn in the tactical options at Bickley’s disposal.
“Jayden’s a scorer, a finisher who can block shots,” said Bickley. “He’s the kind of big man we’ve never really had.
“We have to figure out, me included, how to fit him in and that fine-tuning in how we play is going to take a little time. But, no doubt, it opens up the playbook and defensively, we can honestly gamble a little bit more. Bottom line, he makes us better.”
In the end, although he’d be the last to admit it, the humble Bickley is the cornerstone of Santa Fe Christian’s success. And that’s likely because success has always been secondary, the outcome of creating the right atmosphere.
“I think we’ve always focused more on culture than style of play or anything along that line,” said Bickley. “I’m a big believer that if you have unselfish kids, you’re going to have unselfish play.
“We focus on a set of core values that kind of defines our program—attitude, how we treat each other and how we go about our business.
“I didn’t get into this to win championships, but to develop kids because of what I learned from my coaches. Ten years from now, if sports is done right, wherever they are will be an opportunity to grow and do it the right way as a Christian.”
Others in the local coaching fraternity, including veteran La Costa Canyon basketball mentor Dave Cassaw, are admirers.
“I think Coach Bickley has done a great job and seems to have developed a consistent culture of togetherness and toughness,” observed Cassaw. “He always has his teams prepared to play to their strengths—they often give up size but compete very hard.”
Hard enough to win a CIF Open Division title? If one dream’s come true, why not another?
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