ASL law student brings Mountain Mission Girls to National Basketball Victory
The typical life of a law school student includes a battery of intellectual exercises — lectures, readings, moot courts, brief writing, and exams. Dionna Marcus, a student at Appalachian School of Law, added another exercise to her already busy schedule: coaching the varsity girls’ basketball team at Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia. Embodying the holistic ethos of ASL, Dionna heard a divine calling to give up her time and basketball expertise to a small group of student-athletes seeking the greatest prize of their sport, a national championship.
Competing against nationally-ranked teams, the Mountain Mission team had a great challenge facing it. Dionna knew something about such challenges. She played basketball at Virginia State University on a full scholarship. She excelled in her academic studies as well and received the opportunity to go to law school. And despite the pressure of studying law, she now found herself on a basketball court encouraging young student-athletes to meet their challenges head-on and have faith in themselves.
Largely because she committed herself and the team to triumph, and partially because it was the only coaching style she closely knew, Dionna radically changed the Varsity Girls Basketball Program by challenging each of her players through collegiate basketball training. This included a whole new array of drills and skills training — and getting up to practice every day of the week at 6 a.m., being sure to be on the court fully prepared at least 15 minutes beforehand.
“My players are some of the most hard-working and most passionate players I know,” Coach Marcus said, “Instead of questioning my coaching, each of them bought into it and trusted the vision God had for us. From 6 a.m. practices to winning games, these girls have grown tremendously. Not just in the way that they play,” she continued, “but in the way that they think and in the way that they act. I could not be happier to coach a group of girls.”
The varsity team plays in Division IV of the National Association of Christian Athletes. Their first major win was the “Providence Championship” in Johnson City, Tennessee, in which the team captured their first tournament victory of the year. That inertia did not expire. The Mountain Mission Challengers caught a winning streak all the way to the National Championship in Dayton, Tennessee, winning 6 games in a row to be there.
The championship game was a close and hard-fought competition throughout. The opposing finalists, the Maryville Christian School Eagles were locked in a tie with the Mountain Mission Challengers. The clock expired with both teams at 52 points.
The game went into overtime.
Head Coach Dionna Marcus took the brief intermission to huddle with the girls, speaking words to calm their hearts and steel their nerves. “God did not bring us this far to leave us,” she reassured them.
In those four supplementary minutes that followed, the Maryville Eagles were completely shut out. The Challengers scored ten more points. The 2022 NACA Girls Varsity Basketball National Championship was won 52-62 by Mountain Mission School. This is the first national varsity basketball championship to be earned by Mountain Mission School since its inception. That includes both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams.
“My players are the true epitome of perseverance,” Coach Marcus reflected, “every win and every loss molded them into champions well before winning the national championship game.”
Appalachian School of Law could not be prouder of the example set by second-year law student Dionna Marcus. Her story, similar to the stories of both ASL and Mountain Mission, highlights the rewards of service and the power of hope.