03/12/10 — Leadership key to the Cougars' run

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Leadership key to the Cougars' run

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 12, 2010 1:47 PM

The shots clanged off the iron.

The frustration swelled.

Devonte White walked up to his teammate, pulled him aside and quietly spoke a few words. A slight nod ensured the message had been received as play resumed.

"It's important to have a quarterback out there leading your team, not in the manner of screaming or yelling, but in the manner of just keeping their attitude positive," said Goldsboro head boys' basketball coach Patrick Reynell.

White has flown under the radar this season behind teammates RaSean Brewington and James Williams, two of the Cougars' top three offensive performers. But the junior point guard's mentality and silent direction has proven priceless.

"He's a wonderful leader," said Reynell.

And White is one of several reasons the Cougars are playing for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A state championship Saturday at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Goldsboro (23-7 overall) opposes No. 2-ranked Monroe at 2:35 p.m.

It's the Cougars' first title appearance since 2003 and fourth overall since the late Norvell T. Lee roamed the sidelines for 20-plus seasons.

"We're enjoying the moment, but keeping things in perspective," said Reynell. "(This week) we've worked on things that we're not doing the best that we can on the court. And my theory is if something is working, don't change it because we're not going to re-invent the wheel this week."

Joining White, Brewington and Williams in the starting lineup are junior guard Robert Kornegay and senior guard Demetrio Irby. Kornegay's selection has generated some criticism from the Cougar faithful, but he's provided stability on the court.

"Robert is someone who is going to reverse the ball and understand the offensive flow," said Reynell. "He's the one who gets us going offensively. When Matt (Woodard) gets into the game, he's so smart and picks up on what the defense is doing."

Opposing defenders keep a watchful eye on Brewington, the team's top scorer at 18 points a game. If the 6-2 senior doesn't knock down shots from the perimeter, he'll challenge the opposing team's post defense.

"He's going to get his teammates involved because he knows the defense is going to key on him," said Reynell. "When you have someone as unselfish as him, that's wonderful because he's going to move the defense as he likes and get opportunities for those guys."

Williams has brought a new intensity into the postseason and will need that same energy against 6-foot-5 senior center Issac Blakeney, who has signed to play football at Duke. Irby orchestrates the spread offense and finds the mismatches, which generated fourth-quarter, free throw opportunities against Pender last Saturday.

Corteiz Sprangle defends well along with Irby.

Monroe (31-1) brings a 22-game win streak into the contest. All 13 active players on the Redhawks' roster played on the football team which won the Rocky River Conference title. They ended the year 13-1 overall after an upset loss against West Montgomery in the western semifinals.

Reynell compared the Redhawks to sectional foe West Columbus.

"I know we're going to face some horses ... guys who can run the floor an go the whole game," said Reynell. "I know they have a couple of guards that can fill it up and a guard who can work our defense a little bit. The difference between them and West Columbus is they have a 6-5 kid who can really run the floor well.

"But the good thing is we're a pretty good defensive team and that's what we hang our hat on."

Goldsboro's depth proved crucial in the eastern regional. Reynell constantly substituted fresh players into each game, while Weldon and Pender had pivotal scorers on the bench in foul trouble.