01/19/06 — Saints tough to slow down

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Saints tough to slow down

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on January 19, 2006 2:11 PM

When Charles B. Aycock looks to slow down Southern Wayne, which is averaging close to 90 points per game, the Falcons will obviously have to make sure leading scorers Delawn Armwood and Akeem Royal don't get loose for one of their patented scoring streaks.

The senior duo is putting up nearly 50 points per night combined as the Saints, ranked No. 7 in the latest Class 3-A ncpreps.com poll, have won 13-of-15 to open the season and stand at 2-1 in the Eastern Carolina Conference.

Still, after seeing Southern Wayne on film, Aycock coach David West is just as concerned about the distributor -- senior point guard Austin Hood -- as he is the potent scorers.

"Austin Hood is the point guard that makes things go. He may not score a lot, but he gets the ball where it's supposed to be," West said. "He's the man who gets everybody going. That's somebody we've got to be very concerned about, but when you're overly concerned the other guys will tear you up. They aren't very tall, but they have speed, they're smart and they shoot well. That's a good solid basketball team that's well coached."

Second-year Southern Wayne's Mike Connelley couldn't agree more with his coaching counterpart.

"Austin's incredible. I don't think he's had a game with more than three turnovers," Connelley said. "To have that many assists and not turn it over ... we're playing really well when we're doing stuff like that, since we're playing at a fast pace."

Hood is scoring seven points per night and dishing out eight assists. Meanwhile, he and fellow senior guard Derek Garris, who is putting up nine points per outing, have been consistent backcourt defenders -- leading the Saints' pressure defense. Hood knows he is obviously playing on a talented team, but he has played on talented basketball and baseball teams before. He believes this Southern Wayne squad's success is due largely in part to their experience and work ethic in practice.

"We've all been together on the varsity since our sophomore year," Hood said. "We all know where each other is going to be, so it makes it easier to find them for open shots. We don't take days off in practice either. We're out there working in practice as hard as we are in games."

The Golden Falcons (4-12 overall) are coming off one of their most disappointing offensive outputs of the season as they suffered a 45-31 loss at Wilson Hunt last Friday to fall to 0-3 in the ECC. West's squad is averaging just 60 points per game, while giving up 68, and he points to two key reasons why his team hasn't developed consistency on the offensive end -- time of possession and free-throw percentage.

"We've only got 11 turnovers per game, so we're protecting the ball and not turning it over," West said. "But, our time of possession is microscopic. We don't take the first good shot, we just take the first shot. Also our free-throw percentage (62 percent) tells the tale. Free throws have especially been an Achilles heel."

With three scorers averaging double figures, Santavin Poole (17.8), Rob Phillips (17.2) and Lamada Williams (16), Aycock certainly has the potential to get on a roll and finish strong in conference play. West is aware of that, but he doesn't want his team to wait to heat up until the final week of the regular season and the ECC tournament. Simply, the Falcons, who have three straight home games after playing seven-of-nine on the road, need to start stringing together wins soon to secure one of the ECC's three guaranteed N.C. High School Athletic Association playoff berths.

"We're not out yet, but time's running short. We've got to start putting wins up, and we've got to make big strides," West said. "Winning the ECC tourney is a long shot, and I believe the third-place team has to have six wins. We've got seven games left. The kids aren't going to give up. We'll be scrappy like we've always been."

Connelley, who's team bounced back off of last weekend's loss to Kinston with a 105-71 win at Spring Creek on Tuesday, just hopes the team continues to improve in the final weeks of the regular season. The Saints, winners of 10 of their last 11, seem destined to be in the mix for the conference title, but Connelley isn't letting his team rest on their laurels.

"We don't feel like we played well against Kinston. We're disappointed we lost the game to put it mildly," he said. "I don't think anything eases a loss, but I like where we're at. We detest losing. No excuses ... They (Kinston) beat us, and we need to win out."

The girls game features a pair of teams that both fashion 2-1 marks in ECC play.

Aycock (11-6 overall) is coming off of a 56-44 win at Wilson Hunt, while the Saints (6-6 overall) topped Kinston 68-62 on the road. Hunt is also 2-1 in league play, as all three are looking up in the standings at unbeaten and state-ranked Wilson Beddingfield (15-0, 3-0).

The Lady Golden Falcons won both meetings last year against the Saints.