Beast of the East: Cougars' defense smothers Patriots
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 7, 2010 1:50 AM
GREENVILLE -- Defense wins championships.
And Goldsboro's man-to-man pressure resulted in gold.
The Cougars coerced Pender's guards into uncharacteristic mistakes and efficiently converted the miscues into pivotal points during their 58-48 victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern regional men's basketball title game Saturday afternoon.
Goldsboro (23-7 overall) advanced to the state final next Saturday against Monroe (31-1) at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Game time is 2:30 p.m.
RaSean Brewington, the regional's Most Valuable Player, shared game-high scoring honors (20 points) with 6-foot-10 Pender center Keynan Pittman. Fellow Cougar Devonte White contributed 10 points and picked the Patriots for five steals.
Demetrio Irby and all-tournament pick James Williams supplied nine and seven points, respectively, in limited roles due to foul trouble. Matt Woodard provided six points off the bench and collected two of the Cougars' 13 steals in the contest.
Pender (27-2) lost in the regional final for the second consecutive year. The Patriots committed a season- and playoff-high 28 turnovers, which led to 22 Cougar points.
"I think defensively because we were in their hip pocket all night, we forced them to rush," said Cougars head coach Patrick Reynell. "A lot of turnovers was exactly them rushing because of the pressure. Watching them play against the zone, they're not a 3-point shooting team.
"They'll catch the ball on the reversal, spot up and shoot, and we wanted to avoid that. We wanted them to put the ball on the floor. I think our defensive intensity in the fourth quarter was the key."
Goldsboro hounded Pender's guards with a jump-trap scheme near the halfcourt line. The strategy resulted in a couple of turnovers that turned into baskets and brought a solid contingent of Cougar fans to life inside Williams Arena.
Brewington benefited from the first two miscues. He drained two free throws and then buried a 3-pointer, his third of the game, off an assist from White.
"The play was set up for me to shoot a 3," said Brewington. "I made it and we gained some intensity off that play. (We) got a couple of steals, got more intensity and we just picked up the defense from there."
White's free throw off a turnover and Brewington's driving layup against Pittman extended the Cougars' lead to 42-37 two minutes into the final period. Pender closed within 42-40 before Brewington hit a free throw and Irby knocked down a reverse layup from the baseline.
Pittman's offensive putback trimmed the deficit to 45-42.
Goldsboro pushed the ball downcourt and set up in its spread offense. Irby constantly found the mismatches and Pender's guards slowly fouled out one by one as exasperated Patriot fans roared their disapproval behind their team's bench.
The Cougars hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final 104 seconds to secure their first trip to the state championship game since 2003. Reynell's team finished 22 of 37 from the charity stripe after missing eight free throws in the third quarter.
"I know what that was. I stopped watching," said Reynell. "I turned around, and let the crowd let me know if we missed it or made it. I no longer coach free throws."
The teams battled through five lead changes during the first three quarters. Goldsboro grabbed an eight-point advantage after the first eight minutes, but Pender erased the deficit with an eight-point run in the second quarter.
The Cougars led 27-23 at halftime.
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