Goldsboro girls in regional
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 1, 2011 1:47 PM
The jubilation in the Goldsboro girls' basketball locker room after winning the program's first sectional title since 2005 was overwhelming Friday evening.
Teammates hugged each other.
Then they huddled together.
"We have to pray and thank God for this win," said one player.
The Cougars (22-4 overall) earned an appearance in the 2011 N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A east regional, and play Chocowinity Southside on Wednesday. Tip-off is 7 p.m. at Crown Arena in Fayetteville.
The other semifinal pits 2010 regional runner-up South Robeson against Coastal Plains champion Southwest Onslow. The winners advance to the regional final Saturday at noon.
Goldsboro lost two key players, Zearra McDuffie and Akeyanna Whitlor, off last year's team which won the Carolina 1-A Conference crown and advanced to the sectional semifinals.
Head coach Brandy Smith resigned.
Questions and self doubt encircled the team.
"A lot of people didn't think we'd actually win a basketball game this year, I was told," grinned first-year head coach Latina Bullock-Davis. "I had no doubt that the team this year could take it all the way. Knowing what was instilled in them and working with them for the past three years as an assistant coach, I saw it in them."
Bullock-Davis worked diligently to build each player's self confidence in the offseason. She barely tweaked the offensive and defensive schemes which also produced an Eastern Plains 2-A title in 2009.
The team started to bond like a family.
"This group of girls this year is more of a cohesive unit," said Bullock-Davis. "As far as on the court, they play together well. Off the court, they're like a bunch of sisters as if they were living in the same house together.
"When a family works together and shows those characteristics of a family, success is bound to happen."
The Cougars entered Christmas break with a 6-3 worksheet that included losses to three 3-A teams -- Southern Nash, North Lenoir and county foe Charles B. Aycock. They didn't lose again for the next 1 1/2 months.
Goldsboro won its holiday invitational, which started a 13-game win streak and led to a second consecutive Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championship.
Ayden-Grifton upset the Cougars in the conference tournament final for the second straight season.
"It opened our eyes and made us realize there are some things that we still need to continue to work on," said Bullock-Davis. "It gave us an opportunity to refocus, figure out what we were doing wrong and fixing it, which we were able to do that."
Just like a family.