High school basketball with a small-town, Indiana-like feel is on display whenever North Kissimmee Christian School plays in its new home gym on Donegan Avenue.

There’s no more than two or three rows of seats; if you’re sitting in the first row along the sideline, you can’t fully stretch you legs or they’ll be on the playing surface. It gives new meaning to the term “courtside seats”.

The NKCS Lions took on local rival Heritage Christian, a fellow Florida Christian Conference foe who play in much the same kind of gym on U.S. 192, on Tuesday, and the home team got the better part of the Eagles, winning 75-46 to go to 7-3 on the season.
The Lions spread out the scoring, with nine players hitting buckets and five scoring at least eight points.

“We missed some shots we normally make, but other than that it was a pretty good night,” Lions Coach Rick Johnson said.

Dylan Williams led the way with 15 points, but Gionni Berry (12 points, nine rebounds), Ceferino Velez (11 points, nine rebounds), eighth-grader Ameer Ramadan (10 points) and Baylen Reed (eight points off the bench) contributed. Point guard Javen Pagan dished out five assists.

Heritage senior Xavier Rivas led all scorers with 21 points.

NKCS opened its new gym in January, meaning it got in there the last half of last season. The court is named after Johnson’s father, Richard Johnson, Sr., a driving force in keeping the small school going for 25 years.

“We love having this new building, it gives us a home-court advantage,” the younger Johnson said. The Lions will be back in that gym Thursday for a Florida Christian Conference matchup with Eastland Christian.

While these Christian schools are among the smallest that play interscholastic basketball in the county, there is talent that could play, and probably start, on the public high school teams. NKCS will put that to the test on Jan. 8, when the Lions take on Gateway High. Heritage has played public schools in the past.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Johnson said.