01/18/13 — Mitchell says Rosewood answering preseason concerns

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Mitchell says Rosewood answering preseason concerns

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 18, 2013 1:47 PM

Rarely does success breed uncertainty, but following a 14-win season and a trip to the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A state playoffs a year ago, Rosewood head boys' basketball coach Daniel Mitchell was unsure what to expect as practice began this season.

The Eagles had holes to fill on the interior after big men Zach Thornton and Will Winslow graduated and Joel Davis transferred to Wayne Country Day. Sophomores Dennis Mitchell and Khalil Warren would be counted on to provide quality minutes on the inside.

Rosewood returned experienced seniors in guards Dee Mabry and Josh Davis and forward Jyonte Raynor. Junior forward Jon Hare was also back. How those veterans would mix with wide-eyed underclassmen was a question mark.

"I really didn't know (what to expect)," coach Mitchell said. "I knew we were only going to have 10 guys on varsity and I thought we might be a little thin on the inside. I knew we would be experienced at the guard position and as far as big men and post play, I wasn't sure where we would be in that regard.

"I think for the most part we are a team that understands the effort that has to be put forth to compete at a high level."

Mitchell watched his team grow and understand their individual roles during the non-conference portion of the schedule. Rosewood went 9-2 with both losses coming against county foe Charles B. Aycock.

The Eagles won the Bulldog Christmas Classic at Princeton.

Rosewood opened Carolina 1-A Conference play last Friday night at home against defending conference champion Ayden-Grifton. For three quarters Rosewood struggled to knock down open shots, defend the Chargers' screen-and-roll and hustle after loose balls.

Ayden-Grifton opened up a 10-point lead in the third quarter before the Eagles began to fight back. Rosewood ratcheted up its defense in the final period, began to control the backboards and Raynor sank a pair of critical 3-pointers in the final three minutes as the Eagles rallied for a 44-41 win.

The Carolina 1-A has to proven over the last several years to be a league in which each game possesses the potential to be a 32-minute war. Demonstrating the offensive patience and quality shot selection along with the defensive intensity Rosewood displayed in the fourth quarter against Ayden-Grifton is going to be key for the Eagles.

As Rosewood dives into the heart of its conference schedule, how Dennis Mitchell and Warren continue to develop on the interior figures to be significant. Stern tests against the league's taller teams -- Goldsboro and a visit to Ayden-Grifton on Feb. 1 -- could go a long way to determining the conference champion.

"Dennis and Khalil are continuing to get better every day," coach Mitchell said. "I know Goldsboro has more size than probably any team we've played. Their development is going to be huge for us and they've got to be prepared to play big minutes."