John Perkins preached faith.
Not a spiritual faith, mind you, although they have plenty of that at Williamsburg Christian Academy, where Perkins is athletic director and girls basketball coach.
No, Perkins was preaching a faith in the possible, a belief that a 79-student high school with a gym barely big enough to dream in could one day compete against the top private schools in the state.
That was the faith Perkins sold to his school's board of directors when he campaigned to have Williamsburg Christian compete in the Metro Athletic Conference three years ago.
"If you look at one wall in our gym, it is filled with EVAC banners from all kinds of sports," Perkins said of the school's former league, the Eastern Virginia Athletic Conference. "I said, 'It's going to be a little while before we start filling the other wall up with Metro banners.' But actually, it was quicker than expected."
Three years later, both the boys and girls basketball programs at Williamsburg Christian are a success.
Ranked third in the Virginia Independent Schools Division III poll, the boys team is 22-7 after upsetting top seed Atlantic Shores 79-66 Saturday night to win the Metro Conference tournament.
The girls squad also is 22-7 and ranked third in the state after beating Denbigh Baptist 50-24 in the Metro title game.
Success for Williamsburg Christian did not arrive overnight. After all, faith sustained is faith rewarded.
For the Eagles' boys team, it began three years ago when Deron Powers joined a core group that had been playing together since sixth grade.
"We didn't really bring him in," boys coach Chris Gann said. "He showed up one day for an open house with his mom. They were interested and one thing led to another. I didn't know him from the man on the moon, so that was a blessing for sure."
With Powers, forward Jake Duncan and guard Will Mausteller leading the way, the Eagles finished 20-4 last season, their second in the Metro. They advanced to the state semifinals, where Williamsburg Christian fell to Isle of Wight on a missed putback attempt in overtime.
Powers has become even more assertive this season, leading the Eagles in scoring with his 19.8 points-per-game-average. The junior, who is receiving college attention from High Point, Liberty and UNC Asheville, said it took a little while for him to learn how to play with his new teammates when he first arrived at WCA.
"It was a little difficult when I first came here because my playing style was different," Powers said. "There are a lot of shooters here and I'm used to playing with a lot of scorers, so it took a little while. But the chemistry was always there."
WCA's girls team understands heartbreaking losses. After finishing 11-14 in their first year in the Metro, the Eagles went 25-2 last season before losing to the Charlottesville-area Miller School 45-27 in the state final.
The final was a coming-out party for forward Keyana Brown, a freshman last season who enrolled at Williamsburg Christian after seeing Powers' success at the school previous year.
As a sophomore, Brown leads the Eagles in points (17.7), rebounds (10.6) and assists per game, and is already receiving attention from several mid-major schools as she adjusts to being a known threat throughout the league.
"Well, it was a little tough because a lot of weight fell on my shoulders," Brown said. "During crunch time, people are looking for me. But it has made me work 10 times as hard because they are looking for me to make a play."
Brown's emergence prompted Perkins to modify his offense, switching from a half-court-oriented set offense, centered around getting shots for guards Libby Timmer and Becca Perkins, to an up-tempo, dribble-drive offense meant to showcase the talent of Brown and his other guards.
"That's what most of the colleges run," Perkins said. "Even with our zone offense, it's an aggressive 'penetrate and dish' versus the old 'throw it around, see if you can work the ball and get a shot,' … and it isn't our point guard who starts the dribble-drive off. It's Keyana."
Still, Perkins knows success at a school like Williamsburg Christian can be transient. For every James McAdoo, the North Carolina recruit who has attended Norfolk Christian since the second grade, there is an Adrienne Motley, a guard who transferred from Hampton Roads Academy to Woodside this season.
"I got Coach in the Year in the state and Coach of the Year in the Metro last year," Perkins said. "Believe me, I think I'm a pretty good coach, but it's your talent. … I remember when I saw the talent in summer league, I remember telling my assistant, Chris Brown, we've got to start thinking about what that means to us."
For Perkins, and for Williamsburg Christian Academy, it meant a faith in the possible.