Nestled off New Hall Road between Greenbrier and White House, Dayspring Academy is easy to miss.
The preK-12 school opened in 2006 and has a total enrollment of just under 200 students.
However, the school’s boys basketball team is making a name for itself and the school with another successful season on the hardwood. The Shires won their first-ever Tennessee Christian Athletic Association (TNCAA) tournament title in 2019 and have followed it with a 17-2 record so far this season.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Dayspring coach Jonathan Brewer said. “We had a lot of tough seasons, especially early on. But last year, we finally put things together and made a run in the tournament. As far as the regular season goes, this is definitely the best that we’ve done.”
Dayspring hopes to defend its title this year. The Shires beat Restoring Hope Academy 49-17 on Feb. 4 to advance to the TNCAA semifinals against Clarksville Christian on Monday, Feb. 10. The winner of that contest advanced to championship game Tuesday at Lancaster Christian Academy.
The Shires are paced by 1,000-point scorers Michael Tannehill and Ben Zachary. Tannehill leads the team with 20.1 points per game, while Zachary averages 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
Brewer said Tannehill was the “missing piece” that helped Dayspring become a championship-caliber program. He transferred to the school before the 2018-19 season and made an immediate impact.
“We had some good teams the year or two before he came to Dayspring, but we were never able to get over that hump,” Brewer said. “When he joined us, it took a while for everyone to mesh together, but by the end of (last) season we were firing on all cylinders, and Michael was a big part of that.”
Zachary is a long-time Dayspring student who saw significant playing time as a freshman. Since then, he has improved his game to transform into a college prospect.
“Ben has worked really hard on his own,” Brewer said. “He trains and works out a lot, doing a lot of extra stuff outside of regular practices. He has really come on strong this year.”
The rest of the starting lineup includes senior center Easton Eller (11.8 PPG), senior forward Colton Harrison (9.6) and sophomore guard Logan Johnson (13.1 PPG).
“Colton and Easton are our big men inside,” Brewer said. “Colton is so strong and can jump so high. (They) rebound like crazy and are always threats to score. (Colton) and Easton have kind of been unstoppable for other teams this year.”
The stacked lineup is even more impressive considering that less than 50 high school students attend Dayspring, according to the TSSAA online directory. In Brewer’s 11 seasons at the helm, the Shires have never held a tryout.
“I’ve always prided myself on giving guys the opportunity to play basketball when, most of the time, they wouldn’t be playing anywhere else,” Brewer said. “It’s just such a small school that if you want to play basketball, show up at practice, work hard and you’re on the team.”
Tannehill and Zachary both plan to play college basketball. If they sign scholarships, the duo will join Harrison and Malone Thrift as the third and fourth Dayspring athletes to ever play at the next level. Harrison inked with Lee University baseball last November. Thrift signed with Trevecca Nazarene softball later that month.
“Our focus at Dayspring is always academics first,” Brewer said. “We have just hit a (group) of students that are naturally gifted and work hard. We’re blessed that they wanted to stay, be part of the Dayspring family and help grow our athletic programs.”
The Shires have come a long way since the basketball program was established just over a decade ago. Their two losses this season were to Davidson Academy and East Robertson, both larger schools that own state championships in the sport.
Dayspring basketball is no longer an underdog. Instead, it is trying to prove that it can stay at the top.
“Last year, we were kind of underdogs and fed off that energy,” Brewer said. “We aren’t underdogs this year. We have to make sure we don’t become complacent and just expect to win. We still have to put in the work and stay determined to make it happen.”