03/14/09 — Perry adds name to coach of the year ranks

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Perry adds name to coach of the year ranks

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 14, 2009 11:32 PM

Not long after watching his team lose a quarterfinal-round game in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A playoffs last season, Eric Perry had a vision.

Changes had to be made, thought the second-year Wayne Country Day girls' basketball coach. Perry placed his team in a summer league, implemented a man-to-man defense and strengthened two intangibles -- mental and physical toughness.

The adjustments worked well.

The Chargers posted a program-best 27 victories and seized their first-ever NCISAA state championship in school history on their third try. WCDS emerged runner-up in 1994 and 1976.

Because of his efforts, Perry is the 2008-09 News-Argus All-Area girls basketball coach of the year.

A year ago, Wayne Country Day relied primarily on zone defense and Perry felt the team didn't force enough turnovers to create transition baskets. The man-to-man scheme allowed senior guard Brooke Norris to channel her intensity through on-ball pressure. Perry hoped Norris could create steals and fast-break chances.

The transition wasn't smooth, admits Perry, but the wins piled up.

"Change is hard and in the beginning the girls would get frustrated, especially in practice," said Perry. "As the games started and they started seeing results, then they began to buy into it even more."

The Chargers successfully defended their Coastal Plains Independent regular-season and tournament crowns. Norris, freshman point guard Catherine Ford and senior center Bridgette Briggs earned all-CPIC recognition. Briggs was named the player of the year and eventually earned NCISAA all-state accolades for the second consecutive season.

Perry said the team's outlook changed with a road victory at Kerr-Vance, a perennial CPIC contender, in 2008.

"Once we beat Kerr-Vance up there in their place and you could see the confidence rise. Our saying is it's our conference until somebody beats us," said Perry. "We've been fortunate enough for two years to not lose a conference game. Wherever we go now in the conference we feel like we're at home."

The biggest obstacle blocking the Chargers' state-championship run, according to Perry, was Trinity Christian of Fayetteville. The teams split the regular-season series with each winning on its homecourt.

"I think they kind of intimidated us at their place," said Perry. "If we wanted to reach our goals and win a state championship, we needed to become more mentally and physically tough.

"When they came to our place our girls were focused. Once they cleared that hurdle it was smooth sailing. We knew we could beat anybody in the state."

WCDS won the rematch in the NCISAA semifinals and upended perennial power Word of God in the title game. In the final seconds against Word of God, Perry sat down and reflected on the moment.

"There was about a minute or so left and I was coaching, they were pressuring us and I didn't even realize how much time was left," said Perry. "There was a foul, and I happened to look up and that's when it hit me. The first thing I thought was I had to keep myself together and I knew I had to make some subs.

"Then I sat down and just to see the looks on our girls' faces. It was like an out-of-body experience."