Fresh on the court

First Posted: 12/22/2014

TRUCKSVILLE — The Rock Solid Academy continued its growth in December when the Christian school in Shavertown made its first venture into interscholastic athletics.

Rock Solid played its first basketball games, including making its home debut with a girls-boys doubleheader Dec. 20 at the Rock Recreation Center in Trucksville.

“Basketball is the first sport that we rolled out,” said Mark DiPippa, president and head of school at Rock Solid. “We’ve done some clubs in the past. We’ve had flag football and a bowling league, but this is the first official sport that we’ve had.”

Rock Solid, which opened in 2012 to offer a Biblically-based education, has an enrollment of 75 students spread from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Like other similar Christian academies, the school did not join the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association so it is not bound by PIAA rules. Rather than the typical grade 9-12 high school team, the school’s teams contain players from grades 7-12.

“Initially, we didn’t know if we’d have enough ninth- through 12th-graders,” DiPippa said. “We would have been close. The seventh- and eighth-graders give us enough.”

There are 14 players on the boys team and 11 on the girls team.

The home opener was against the Binghamton (N.Y.) Blaze, a team made up of home-schooled students. Most of the other games are against similar small Christian schools.

DiPippa said the boys will play 13 games and the girls will have eight in their first season. With Rock Rec booked, he is looking for a site for two more home games in January and February because the gym at the former Westmoreland School, that is now Rock Solid, does not have seating for spectators.

The boys have played four games, including two in a season-opening event in Reading. The girls have played twice. Both teams are in the learning stage and looking for their first win.

“If there’s one word to describe what we’re doing right now, it’s ‘teach,’” boys coach Joel Ebley said.

Kevin Straka, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, who played some as a freshman at Triboro Academy in Old Forge, is the program’s only experienced high school player.

Straka and Sean Schoen, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, are the only players who have started in every game.

Ebley is working with a very inexperienced group of players that suffered an 82-17 loss to Binghamton in its home opener.

“They have very little knowledge of the game,” Ebley said. “We have some athleticism but they just haven’t played basketball other than a couple that played in elementary school.

“They’re not familiar with basketball in general, with strategies and the skills it takes.”

As the school continues to grow, DiPippa would like Rock Solid to offer more athletic options. Based on similar schools, he said soccer seems to be the most realistic option for the next sport. Before that happens, however, DiPippa is looking at the possibility of entering athletes in the Association of Christian Schools International track meet because a full team is not needed for that competition.

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