03/10/10 — Duke football recruit leading the way for Monroe

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Duke football recruit leading the way for Monroe

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 10, 2010 1:46 PM

Johnny Sowell doesn't mind nostalgia.

And he certainly believes in deja vu.

Three decades ago, Sowell played on Monroe's only state championship basketball team. This year's group reminds him of that season when the Redhawks dominated the competition and claimed the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A boys' crown.

"They're a lot like that team," said Sowell. "Overall, this bunch is quicker and have the mindset of what they need to do, which is similar to when I played. When they won the (western) regional (last week), there wasn't a lot of 'rah-rah' afterwards.

"They said 'coach, it's not over yet.'"

Ranked No. 2 in the final NCPreps.com poll, Monroe (31-1 overall) seeks its second state title Saturday in the 1-A final against perennial power Goldsboro. Tip-off is 2:35 p.m. at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.

Sowell admitted he has a "word-of-mouth" scouting report on the Cougars.

"They do have several players who have done well by talking to some people," said Sowell. "I know about (RaSean) Brewington and I know their big kids are playing well for them. But the bottom line is it's not what you've done all year, but what you do Saturday.

"I think both teams are going to bring their 'A' game."

The Redhawks' offense, not surprisingly, involves getting 6-foot-5, 205-pound center Issac Blakeney into the flow early. Blakeney, who has accepted a football scholarship to Duke, averages a double-double -- 15 points, 12 rebounds.

Junior guard Jamison Crowder and senior guard Quontez Threatt combine for nearly 30 points and 10 assists an outing. Junior guard Qwadarius Duboise contributes 11.7 points.

"As far as court time, those guys have a lot of experience," said Sowell.

Monroe can throw different looks at opposing defenses by either speeding up the game or slowing it down. Sowell said his team has made adjustments well throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs.

The Redhawks eliminated defending state champ Bishop McGuinness in the western semifinals, and beat Hendersonville for the right to play in Chapel Hill. They've scored 70 or more points in 22 outings this season, and emerged victorious in each contest.

Sowell's team has held opponents to 50 points or less on 14 occasions.

"I don't care what sport you play, you've got to be able to play defense and we feel like overall we do a pretty good job," said Sowell. "We're going to emphasize defense this week. When you're here (at this level), you've got to handle the ball, not turn it over and make shots.

"The adrenaline is going to get you there. The defense will be there. I told my boys you have to focus on 32 minutes of hard-nosed basketball and we'll see what happens."