03/04/04 — Goldsboro girls ready for Wildcats

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Goldsboro girls ready for Wildcats

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 4, 2004 1:56 PM

Goldsboro High girls basketball coach Gladys McClary might want to borrow a visual aid that Wake Forest men's basketball coach Skip Prosser used a couple of weeks ago.

Prosser pulled out a ladder and marked each step with the teams remaining on the Demon Deacons' schedule. He also added the result of the previous meeting.

When the players gathered for practice that afternoon, Prosser reminded them to take each game one step at a time toward their common goal -- the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

McClary could use the same tactic.

The Cougars have climbed two rungs on that ladder in the postseason, but face their biggest step tonight in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A eastern regionals. Goldsboro (28-1) opposes East Chapel Hill in the semifinals, the same round in which McClary's team stumbled a year ago.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at J.H. Rose High School in Greenville.

"One of the comments that was made last year (after a loss) was we want to go back and we want another shot at it," McClary said. "They had a purpose in their mind to work hard this season to get back there. This is the biggest game for us and means everything to us.

"When people say the girls don't seem excited, it's because the girls did what they were expected to do among themselves."

Goldsboro met every preseason goal it set. The Cougars finished unbeaten in the Eastern Carolina Conference regular season and claimed the tournament title for the second straight year. They had hoped to go unbeaten overall, but a two-point loss to Fuquay-Varina is the only blemish on their record.

Ranked No. 3 in the final ihigh.com poll, Goldsboro carries a 19-game win streak into tonight's game. McClary's club set the single-season school record for victories (28) on the road last Saturday at West Brunswick. They eclipsed the old mark of 27 set by the 1980 team, which captured the NCHSAA 4-A championship with Gerald Whitley as head coach.

However, the program hasn't experienced too much success in regional play. McClary hopes to change that against East Chapel Hill, which is ranked No. 10 statewide.

"One of the advantages to this year is we're going into familiar territory," McClary said. "We've played in that gym before. We understand the environment and it's just a different team (we're playing)."

But McClary hasn't been able to obtain a detailed scouting report or videotape on the Wildcats. A few phone calls revealed that East Chapel Hill is a fundamentally-sound team with an average post player and solid guard play. The backcourt is led by McDonald's All-American Karlyle Lim, who has signed with Pittsburgh.

Lim is complemented by sophomore guard Alix Barnette, who averages a team-leading 15.4 points and averages about two assists per game.

Five-foot-7 Danica Vance, a senior forward, averages 11.7 points and six rebounds a game. Senior forward Ambrosia Barnette grabs nearly eight rebounds per contest.

McClary still wishes she knew more about the Wildcats' tendencies on offense and defense. Other coaches have advised not to leave anyone open for the 3-pointer, and to limit their penetration.

"All I've been able to do is visualize players in our conference who remind me of those things," McClary said. "When teams make it this far, you know they are doing the right things at the right time.

"I think we're evenly matched just off what little information I know about them."

McClary doesn't consider her lack of knowledge about the Wildcats as a disadvantage. She expects her team to play disciplined.

"I'm just a disciplinarian because I believe in details and specifics," McClary said. "I believe in boxing out, following your shot ... the basic fundamentals. What I've been preaching the whole year is the game does not change regardless of who you play."

The backcourt tandem of senior Clintoria Bryant and sophomore Chevoya Jackson is averaging nearly 30 points a game. Junior forward Ashelyn James is nearly averaging a double-double (11.5 points, nine rebounds), and is coming off a 20-point effort against West Brunswick.

Frontcourt mate Jessica Faison has been a pleasant surprise for McClary. The 5-9 junior leads the team with 10.5 rebounds a game.

But all those numbers mean nothing at this point.

Goldsboro is eager to return to the state title game for the first time since 1982.

"These girls are really grounded," McClary said. "They're focused on where they are trying to go and have not allowed what has happened to them to cause them to lose sight of it.

"They're not cocky, but confident. For them to have another another opportunity to be at this place, this year, this time and to have a second chance, I know they're going to give it everything they have.

"We're going into this game not just to play, but we're going to play to win."