12/22/11 — Southern Wayne boys off to surprising 10-2 start

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Southern Wayne boys off to surprising 10-2 start

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 22, 2011 1:48 PM

DUDLEY -- An unlikely repeat?

At first, no.

Southern Wayne lost eight seniors off last year's team that swept the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season and tournament championships, and logged 22 victories.

In some ways, Saints fans felt that team underachieved.

One year later, despite the departure of its entire scoring offense, the Southern Wayne varsity boys' basketball team has visions of another ECC title dancing in its head. The Saints (10-2 overall) have survived a rigorous non-conference schedule and prevailed in their first two ECC outings, including a road victory over previously-unbeaten Triton.

"I can't take anything away from a team that wins 22 games," said Saints head coach Russell Stephens. "You can call it underachieving, or whatever. We had been building up for that. This group right here, it came in and we challenged them early on to leave the program how you found it.

"We knew we had some guys that could shoot the ball, and all the pieces are starting to come together."

And it's been a fun puzzle to work so far.

Southern Wayne lost its season opener to West Craven, which cranked up talk among the nay-sayers about this year's campaign on the hardwood. Stephens' squad claimed back-to-back triumphs against bigger and more-physical James Kenan, which ignited a 10-game win streak.

Kinston halted the Saints' streak in the inaugural "Clash at the Capel" contested Saturday night on the Fayetteville State University campus.

"The guys are playing hard and they know their role," said Stephens. "When you have kids who go out there and they play for each other, that's a big thing. If we can continue to do that, then the sky is the limit for this team."

Two juniors spearhead the Saints' offense.

Six-foot-2, 160-pounder Jamiel Price knocks down 21 points a game and score from either inside or outside. He's shooting 78 percent (67 of 86) from the free throw line and is second on the team with 17 3-pointers.

A 5-10 shooting guard, Ronnell Outlaw scores 16.9 points an outing and has drained a team-best 38 3-pointers. Outlaw and Price have combined to convert 119 of the team's 215 field goals through 11 games this season.

Jaylen Roberts averages 9.3 points. Andrew Matthews and Trey Allen score about six points per game apiece.

"When we play, we like to spread the floor because we have a real quick team," said Stephens. "We're hard to stop once we get in a rhythm and get things going our way. I like the toughness and the heart of this team.

"They're playing really good together."

And on pace to win the program's 13th conference championship since 1965.