Goldsboro girls enjoy unexpected journey
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 4, 2011 1:48 PM
Toward the end of Wednesday's victory over Southwest Onslow in the eastern regional semifinals, Goldsboro fans yelled "Cougar Pride."
The cheer electrified Alexus Myles and her teammates.
"We're really happy to be here and I really didn't think we'd play in the regionals," said Myles.
But the Cougars are here -- and one step closer to playing for a state championship. Their journey continues Saturday against No. 5-ranked Southwest Onslow in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A eastern title game. Tip-off is noon at Crown Arena in Fayetteville.
The winner advances to the state finals March 12 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.
"These girls have not experienced this and this is something they wanted to experience," said first-year Goldsboro head coach Latina Bullock-Davis. "I believe it really hit home with every game we've played since the regular season ended. I think they're beginning to understand what this really means.
"It's a great feeling."
Goldsboro is seeking its third state title in program history.
Gerald Whitley and Mary Bryan Carlyle guided the Cougars to NCHSAA 4-A crowns in 1980 and 1982, respectively. Gladys McClary rekindled the program's fire earlier this decade by taking a couple of teams to the eastern 3-A regional.
The current players see banners recognizing those teams' accomplishments each time they step into Norvell T. Lee Gymnasium, and they understand the pride behind the program.
Now they want their piece of history.
The Cougars (23-4 overall) played a near-flawless contest against No. 6-ranked Chocowinity Southside on Wednesday. Guards Jolan Williams, Brandy Johnson and Talaya Lassiter did an exceptional job of breaking the press, and feeding Myles and Kasheika Wallace for easy layups in transition.
Johnson and Shatoria Exum, who scored seven points off the bench, handled the defensive duties against Southside guard Katisha Hyman in a box-and-one scheme. Hyman managed just three field goals.
Cougar forward Kasheika Wallace said patience, playing together and protecting the basketball led to a successful decision over Southside. She and her teammates will need that same effort against Southwest Onslow, which is making its second regional appearance in the last three years.
Senior Janika Williams averages a double-double -- 12.7 points and 11.4 rebounds. She also picks the opponent for six steals and hands out four assists per outing. Jasmine Williams knocks down 9.7 points and grabs three steals a contest.
Jasmine Jordan, a junior, provides 7.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and four steals.
Southwest has never won a regional title.
"What I've been preaching all season long is taking care of the basketball and playing defense, which is going to win ballgames," said Bullock-Davis. "The offense is going to come. We have to play as a unit -- it's not about one individual, but about everybody. When you make it to this point, that's what it boils down to.
"Everybody gets involved."
A little Cougar pride helps, too.