Wagner receives girls' coach of the year honors
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 31, 2013 1:52 AM
Whenever he needs some extra motivation, Tyrone Wagner often reads a poem by Edgar Guest entitled "It Couldn't be Done."
When Wagner took over as the varsity girls' basketball coach at Eastern Wayne he was told by many people that winning simply couldn't be done.
Wagner inherited a program that had won just nine games the season before he was named head coach. The Warriors finished 7-14 during his first campaign.
Undeterred by results, Wagner remained patient and continued to believe in his system. Last season, Eastern Wayne finished 13-13 and reached the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference tournament finals and the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
This season, the Warriors finished 28-2, won both the ECC regular-season and tournament championships, and made the program's first appearance in the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional semifinals.
Wagner is the 2012-2013 News-Argus All-Area Girls' Basketball Coach-of-the-Year.
Without a true post presence, Eastern Wayne relied heavily on tenacious full-court pressure and forcing opponents into an up-tempo game. The Warriors used physically-demanding practices to simulate their bevy of presses and fast-paced style.
Eastern Wayne forced opponents into 30 turnovers a game.
"The girls started to buy into our system last season," Wagner said. "They realize that without a lot of size on the inside, we really need to pressure teams and not let them get into their offense or get the ball down in the paint."
Rather than rely on one or two standout scorers, the Warriors depended on a balanced attack predicated on contributions from numerous players. Sophomore guard Tianna Christopher led Eastern Wayne in scoring at 10 points per game and four different players contributed at least five points a contest. Christopher was named the ECC player-of-the-year.
"Some teams have one or two scorers that average 15 or 20 points that they can really rely on," Wagner said. "We only have one player that averages 10 points a game. But, I feel like other teams can't focus on one or two of our players. We have multiple players that do some of the same things well and our girls really accept their individual roles."
Eastern Wayne went 12-0 against ECC opposition and rolled through the first three rounds of the state playoffs before a rematch with West Craven in the eastern regional semifinals. Despite a season-ending 64-48 loss to the Eagles, Wagner views the setback as a positive for the program.
The Warriors lose five seniors off this year's team.
"I think winning and moving on and possibly winning a state championship might have done more damage than good and we may have gotten complacent," Wagner said. "With us being such a young team, the girls understand we had a good season and they realize how far we've had to come.
"We feel like we're right on schedule with where we're supposed to be."
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