01/04/11 — Carolina 1-A teams ready for league play

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Carolina 1-A teams ready for league play

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on January 4, 2011 1:46 PM

Change is not something to be feared.

It's to be embraced.

That is the mindset of the coaches around the Carolina 1-A Conference as league play gets set to begin on Friday night with a full slate of games.

Entering conference action last season it was Goldsboro who was a clear favorite. The Cougars did not dissapoint and ran though the league schedule en route to an appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A state title game.

Though the Cougars are once again the favorite to claim the Carolina 1-A title, the prevailing thought around the ranks is that the road will be much tougher in 2011.

"I think every team in this conference has gotten better this year," Goldsboro head coach Patrick Reynell said after a recent game. "When you look at what Princeton has done and some of the teams Rosewood has beaten, I think the balance is much better."

Goldsboro will enter conference play with a 7-4 record, with two of those losses coming to perennial 3-A power Southern Wayne. The Cougars have been winning in a variety of ways, but seem to play their best basketball when defense is turning into offense.

Led by senior guard Devonte White and senior forward James Williams, the Cougars boast plenty of athleticism to repeat as league champs.

"Right now our record might as well be 0-0," Reynell said. "I told the guys that after the game, all of these early games are to prepare us for when conference play starts."

Princeton will enter league action against Spring Creek on Friday night in a game that will showcase two teams with very different styles of play. The Dawgs, led by one of the top scorers in the state Ben Jacobs (27 ppg), have put up huge scoring numbers during their perfect 12-0 start to the season.

"Ben gives us the same consistant effort every single night," Princeton head coach Jeff Davis said. "When our other guys are playing well and we aren't turning the ball over, we have shown that we can put points on the board."

While Princeton is perfectly happy slowing down and running half-court offense, the Gators (3-7 overall) are at their best when pushing the ball up the floor. Sophomore point guard Deshar Thomas already has a 43-point game to his credit this season and Spring Creek has shown a propensity to score in bunches.

Getting forward Kenneth Freeman back from injury will go a long way to improving the Gators' depth and rebounding.

Forward play will also be the key at North Duplin (2-5 overall) where head coach Ricky Edwards boasts a stable of capable guards. Breyon Johnson has battled injuries early in the year, but still leads the Rebels with 16 points per game.

Built for the run-and-shoot offense, the Rebels also boast a pair of talented outside shooters in Marcus and James Kornegay as well as a lightning-quick fast break leader in Devin Oliver. The Rebels will look to pull an early shocker in the conference standings when they travel to Goldsboro on Friday night.

At Rosewood (7-2 overall) the feeling of momentum is almost palpable after the Eagles convincing win over county rival C.B. Aycock last week. Jacquez Raynor has shown improved defense and rebounding in the paint and has the Eagles playing solid on both ends.

Outside threats Cody Harris and Jonathan Franks keep teams honest and keep Raynor out of double teams while point guard Jykhia Applewhite brings defenseive energy and ofeensive decision making.

Rosewood will host Ayden-Grifton on Friday night.

The Chargers may very well be the wild-card in the league this season. Never short on athletes, the Chargers have guard depth to play with any team as well as the physical size to create matchup problems.

"Ayden-Grifton has two very talented guards and they do a lot of things well," Rosewood head coach Daniel Mitchell said. "We will need to get a good solid effort from every single guy in our rotation to get a win on Friday."