"We've had our sights set on just trying to make history at Excel," first-year coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said. "This is the first time in Excel history that we've won four games in a row, believe it or not."
Believe it. Just earlier in the week, the Eagles earned another first-time ever distinction under Nickerson when they beat Gordon Lee.
Against the Wolverines, Excel outscored them 14-9 at the outset of the game and led 31-18 by halftime. That lead had increased to 41-26 by the end of the third.
Zach daCamara came through with 16 points to lead the Eagles and Chaz Phillips added nine. Eleven players scored for the team.
Of Phillips, Nickerson said, "He hit three big 3s to get some momentum going in the first half. ... He came off the bench and really helped us out."
What makes Excel's recent run so remarkable is that it came following a six-game skid. Now the Eagles (10-9) are back over .500.
"It just shows that those guys ... knew it [was] tough times, but they just said we're not going to accept this. They turned their own season around," said Nickerson, whose team is on the mend with the return of D.J. Garnigan and Ashton Roach. "It's like all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together when it's really important."
The fans and everyone at the school can feel the surge, he noted.
"It's just a different buzz about it," Nickerson said.
Excel will look to keep its winning streak alive on Tuesday when Trion enters town for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
Eagles 50, Darlington 37
The Excel Christian Academy boys basketball team, having weathered a losing streak earlier this month, continued to show no ill effects from its dismal January start on Friday when the Eagles beat host Darlington, 50-37.
The win marked the third straight win for Excel, which improved to 9-9 overall and 2-1 in Region 6A-A.
Mason Butt led the Eagles with 15 points and Casey Brown added 10. Cam Collins scored a team-high 14 points for the Tigers.
Excel held a 13-10 lead in the first quarter but sprinted even further ahead of Darlington in the second when they held the Tigers to four points. The Eagles were up 32-18 at the break.
Just as Darlington had experienced a bit of a drought, so too did Excel, which scored five points in the third -- the Tigers did slightly better with eight.
Eagles coach Jon-Michael Nickerson said his team ended the game much better than it began the second half.
"We finished the game [by winning] 50-37, so we kind of woke up," Nickerson said.
Excel began the New Year by losing five games -- it also lost its last game of December -- but has seemed to rebound. The Eagles have done so by not allowing many second chances.
"[We] outrebounded them 40-25 which was another pretty good night, and our defense was just absolutely amazing all night," Nickerson said. "This is our third three-game win streak, [and] we held another team under 50 [points] -- that's the 11th time [this] season we've done it."
Walker 39, Lady Eagles 25
Excel got a close look at two good teams Friday and Saturday and paid a heavy price as it took two losses for its troubles.
Excel fell Saturday to Walker, 39-25.
Walker took control early, running out to a 15-4 lead after the first period, then stretching it to 21-7 at halftime, and 29-11 after three quarters.
"We did a good job in the second quarter defensively," Roberson noted, "but we couldn't score."
Walker was held to 6 points in that period but Excel managed only 3 points and couldn't profit from its play on the scoreboard.
Excel outscored its host 14-10 the final period.
Emily Willingham led the Lady Eagles with 9 points while Bekah Bell contributed 7.
"Bekah had been pretty solid scoring for us the last four or five games," Roberson said.
He said Willingham was consistent in her play.
"Walker played a 1-3-1 and they were pretty good," he said. "The whole team is pretty solid, pretty strong."
Darlington 59, Lady Eagles 10
The Lady Eagles got an especially harsh lesson Friday night against Darlington, falling 59-10.
Head coach Michael Roberson said Darlington appears very deserving of its No. 3 ranking in the state as it held Excel to no points in the first quarter.
The Lady Eagles scored 5 points in the second frame, 3 in the third and 2 in the final period.
Darlington's scores at the quarters were 22, 15, 14 and 8.
"Darlington is a complete team and will make a deep run in the tournament," coach Roberson said.
The coach said Excel, which is 0-3 in Region 6-A, faces an important foe in Trion on Tuesday.
"We could put ourselves in a good position with a win against Trion," he said. "We need a couple of wins in our sub-region."
Tipoff against Trion is at 6 p.m.