02/04/09 — Opinion -- Goldsboro's boys answer adversity

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Opinion -- Goldsboro's boys answer adversity

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on February 4, 2009 1:46 PM

Chris Cherry sat in his office with the look of a proud parent on his face and the rare sense of accomplishment that comes from earning a 200th career victory.

The first-year Goldsboro High boys' basketball coach had just watched his team run Eastern Plains 2-A Conference foe Tarboro out of the gym on Friday night with his best player in street clothes.

It was win No. 200 for Cherry, who has experienced a season of peaks and valleys with the Cougars.

The win improved Cherry's career record to 200-57 in nine years and this season's campaign hasn't been without its peaks and valleys.

Goldsboro (14-6 overall) began the year 0-3 and lost its leader and 2007-08 News-Argus Player of the Year Keovanta McDuffie to a knee injury.

McDuffie scored 37 and 27 points in losses to Rocky Mount and C.B. Aycock, respectively, before the injury brought his senior season to an abrupt end.

Since losing McDuffie, the Cougars have won 14 of their last 17 games including 10 of their last 11. Goldsboro began the week atop the EPC standings and travels to second-place North Lenoir for a pivotal showdown on Friday night.

Cherry patiently waited early in the season while several of his players finished up their commitments to the Cougars' football team. Despite being thin on the bench and failing to produce the type of success Goldsboro fans are accustomed to seeing, Cherry's message of, "We can't worry about who we don't have. We have to play with who we do have," never wavered.

Football season finished and Cherry quickly gained not only depth, but experience and a group of players who bought into his up-tempo style that requires relentless full-court defense for 32 minutes. Goldsboro forced 27 turnovers in its win against Tarboro on Friday.

Under Cherry's tutelage the Cougars, began the week averaging nearly 30 rebounds and 11 steals per game while holding opponents to 66 points a contest.

"We play with a great deal of purpose," said Cherry. "I think when these kids first started they didn't realize how much work you have to put in to play this way. I think they're starting to get that now."

With its leading scoring from a year ago now an assistant coach and cheerleader, the players Goldsboro is able to put on the floor have each embraced their respective roles.

Tyrelle Jackson, a role player off the bench last season, leads the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds a game. The senior forward has scored in double figures in every game he's played, but two this season and has broke the 20-point mark in five of the 14 games he's played.

Demetrio Irby and Rasean Brewington have provided the Cougars with consistent outside shooting while scoring 16 and 12 points a contest, respectively.

Junior point guard Michael Langston has thrived at times in his duties as the Goldsboro's floor general. James Williams, Donald Lewis, Devonte White and a host of others have all been serviceable role players.

"We only have two seniors, so we're a fairly young basketball team," said Cherry. "We're playing together and we're really starting to mature. We are knowing where we can get points from and we can get them from a ton of different places."

The sting of losing two head coaches in roughly a year was still fresh on the Goldsboro program when Cherry arrived.

Despite a rocky start and the loss of their go-to scorer, Cherry has never allowed the Cougars to take time to wallow in their misfortune. Instead, he has made sure his players remained focused on the journey ahead.

"We just play the next game and the next practice," said Cherry. "We talked about chopping down that tree. That's what we're going to do these last four or five games is chop it down piece by piece and let the chips fall where they may."