Warriors' Brent Holland earns News-Argus coach of the year accolades
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 18, 2007 2:15 AM
Fourth-year Eastern Wayne girls' basketball coach Brent Holland looked over the non-conference schedule and wondered how his team would survive before league play began.
Could a successful junior varsity team blend with a talented and experienced corps of players? Could the young group mature, consistently compete and not get frustrated?
Holland didn't have the answer.
"I felt we had some talent," said Holland. "I knew we were going to be young, but I did expect us to compete this year in the conference. I would have been disappointed if we hadn't finished second.
"I felt the conference was wide open with Beddingfield (on top) and everyone else (battling for second)."
Still, a missing piece of Holland's offense nagged him -- until Brittani Billups stepped onto campus.
The Spring Creek transfer added a much-needed dimension to the Warriors' style of play, and Holland easily worked her into the system. As Billups' confidence grew, Holland became more secure in his team's ability.
"With Brittani transferring in, I knew that would put us over the top," said Holland.
He was right.
Once the team jelled, Eastern Wayne enjoyed its most-successful season under Holland's direction. The Warriors compiled a 12-13 record overall and tied with Wilson Hunt for second place in regular-season ECC play. A year earlier, the same nucleus of players -- minus Billups -- managed just three wins and ended up in a three-way tie for fourth place.
"The returning girls had gone through some battles and that made them stronger," said Holland, who has been named the 2006-07 News-Argus girls basketball coach of the year. "They were very good girls. They accepted criticism, knew their roles and were just a great coachable bunch."
But could that coachable bunch persevere against the brutal and challenging schedule? Nine games into the season, the Warriors were 3-6 and irritated by close losses.
Holland never voiced his concerns.
"Our strength of schedule was very high," said Holland. "Right now, the teams we're playing on our schedule are peaking. They are all very good teams.
"I knew we were going to be okay."
Again, Holland was right.
Eastern Wayne found its rhythm and posted a 6-4 record against ECC competition. Runners-up in the season-ending conference tournament, the Warriors notched back-to-back road victories in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Holland's team met South Central again in the sectional finals. The Falcons dealt the Warriors a season-ending loss, but Holland didn't mind. That rigorous schedule proved his point.
"Our preseason schedule prepared us to be mentally strong for all the close games we had in our conference," said Holland, who also credited assistant coaches Tony Parrish and Milas Kelly for the team's success. "South Central and North Lenoir won their conference. Every team we lost to this year had a winning record, except C.B. Aycock."
Holland hated to see the season end.
So did his players, who have hounded him about open gym and getting into the weight room for next season.
The Warriors are expected to return 11 of 12 players next season. The JV team won this year's ECC title with head coach Laura Peedin, and a couple of those players should step onto the varsity scene in 2007-08.
"Now they've got a little taste of success and that does nothing but help build things for the future," said Holland.
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