Going from 7-19 in 2010-11, to 14-12 in ’11-12 and then 18-8 last winter, the Golden Bears have taken another step forward this season with a 17-2 overall record and 6-1 mark in Region 5A. They are ranked second in the latest GHSA Class A private school power ranking.
“Part of it is the commitment from our kids to improve in the offseason,” Holy Innocents’ coach Terry Kelly said. “The kids have worked hard to improve and the hard work is paying off.”
Since an 84-72 loss to Landmark Christian Jan. 4, Holy Innocents’ has won six in a row — including a 64-56 win over Pace Jan. 24.
The Bears also have a number of victories over higher classification teams to their credit — a 66-65 victory over cross-town Class AAAAA rival Riverwood Nov. 19, a 77-64 win over AAAA team River Ridge Nov. 21 and a 54-53 defeat of AAAAAA squad Brookwood Dec. 14.
The Golden Bears have been dominant, outscoring its opponents by an average of 70-50 and claiming 14 of their 17 wins by double-digit margins.
“We’re able to run the floor pretty well,” Kelly said. “We have offensively improved over the last four years. Four years ago, we were averaging about 42 to 43 points a game and now we’re averaging  points a game. We do a better job of getting up and down the floor.”
The Bears have been more successful this year, despite losing three senior starters from a year ago.
“We’re pretty young as well,” Kelly said. “Of our 13 players, nine are underclassmen this season.”
Junior Sam Asbury, a 6-foot-2-inch guard, leads the Bears in scoring with 15 points a game. HIES also gets a scoring boost from 6-1 senior point guard Darryl Stewart, who is averaging 14 points and five assists per contest.
The Bears get their inside presence from 6-6 senior post player Josh Ledbetter, while 6-4 junior post player Ashton Meertins has also been a key contributor.
As the regular season winds down, Holy Innocents’ is in the thick of the battle for the top seed in the upcoming 5A tournament. The Bears are right behind Mount Vernon Presbyterian (6-0 region record), Greenforest (7-0) and Landmark (7-1) in the battle for the lead.
In the final week of the regular season, HIES had region games scheduled on the road against Strong Rock Christian Monday and at home against Galloway Tuesday as well as a 5A contest at Greenforest Christian Friday.
The Bears also have to play a makeup game against Mount Vernon that was originally supposed to be played last Tuesday, but has been postponed several times due to the winter storm that blew threw the metro Atlanta area last week.
“It’s going to come down to a number of teams,” Kelly said. “We’re all jockeying for position. There’s a bunch of games still left to be played that will decide how everything turns out, so we still have some work to do.”