01/26/13 — Goldsboro boys starting to find identity with Stephens

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Goldsboro boys starting to find identity with Stephens

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 26, 2013 11:03 PM

The wait for the official announcement naming Russell Stephens as the next varsity boys' basketball coach at Goldsboro High School seemed to drag on forever.

Perhaps it is fitting that the process of the Cougars finding their footing and discovering their identity as a team under Stephens has been slow and steady.

Goldsboro trudged through a rugged non-conference schedule while struggling to adapt to Stephens' system. Several key players, who participated on the Cougars' football team, were afforded little time to adjust to their new coach.

Stern tests against Rocky Mount Prep, Southern Wayne, Wilson Hunt, Garner Magnet and Leesville Road left Goldsboro 5-6 overall heading into 2013. The Cougars' inconsistent backcourt play and inability to get defensive stops proved tough.

The low point came in mid-December -- a 56-35 home loss to Southern Nash, which has just two wins this season.

"I think the first five games we came in with too much pressure on ourselves," Stephens said. "We had to get used to a new coach and a new system. I think any time you play against the talent that we did, it gets you battle tested early and you're not a 'deer in the headlights' once you get into conference play."

Since their 61-46 loss to Leesville Road on Dec. 27 in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, the Cougars have reeled off five straight wins and taken sole possession of first place in the Carolina 1-A Conference.

The key to Goldsboro's turnaround has been 14 individuals completely buying into their specific roles. The Cougars (10-6 overall, 3-0 CC) have transformed from an average half-court offensive team into a multi-dimensional unit capable of scoring in multiple ways.

Goldsboro's interior tandem of senior center Damarian Henderson and 6-foot-7 junior Lonzia Tyson has wreaked havoc on opponents during its current winning streak. Henderson averages nearly 17 points a game to go with almost six rebounds. Tyson provides 11 points, 8 rebounds and three blocks a contest due to his imposing physical presence in the paint.

The ability to create turnovers and force opponents to settle for contested jump shots has been evident for Goldsboro's, which has held its last five opponents to an average of 46 points.

"We're finally starting to get some identity," Stephens said. "We know we're an inside-out team. We know we're a team that has to pressure the basketball. Even when we go to our half-court sets we're doing a better job.

"I think we know where the ball is supposed to go now."

The Cougars' backcourt has transitioned from being considered a liability early on to now being a real asset. Senior point Jalin Sprueil has gotten a better handle on Stephens' offense. Sophomore Rasheen Artis and freshman Myron Carmon continue to provide key production.

Goldsboro committed 107 turnovers in its six losses and has trimmed that number to 67 during its current winning streak.