DURHAM – For the first time Monday, Rocky Mount Prep coach Don Reams watched tape of the Jaguars’ opponent for the NCHSAA 1-A state championship game.
No doubt, he saw exactly the same thing that Winston-Salem Prep coach Andre Gould saw the first time he looked at Rocky Mount Prep.
“We’re just about a mirror image,” Gould said. “They play a style like we play. ... We’ll try to get up and down the court. Try to play fast.”
Gould expected to see Rocky Mount Prep (24-3) at this point in the season. In fact, he and the defending-champion Phoenix expected to see them last year before the Jaguars were upset by Plymouth in the regional finals.
The 1-A record for combined points in a state championship game is 163 points. With the way these two teams play, a new record might be written Saturday. The Jaguars and the Phoenix (31-1) have broken the 100-point barrier multiple times this season.
“We’re run and gun, but we have some control, kind of like (former Arkansas coach) Nolan Richardson’s controlled chaos,” Gould said. “Obviously, we want to get out, but our conference has taught us both ways. We can grind it. If we run, we’ll run.
“It’s just a matter of what the team is posing for us. It they slow it down, we can play that style of basketball too.”
The similarities don’t stop with the way the teams play. They look the same as well.
The Jaguars’ 6-foot-3 slashing-and-shooting guard Jacob Barrett likely will draw 6-foot-4 Mike Hughes, who plays the same way.
Gary Smith will have to stay close to 3-pointer shooter Aaron Lipscomb. It’ll be the same way on the other end of the court.
The Phoenix’s most physical player and best rebounder, 6-foot-8 Coye Simmons, will have to be held down by Deshawn Freeman, Rocky Mount Prep’s most athletic interior player.
But everything in Winston-Salem Prep’s offense starts with senior captain Raekwon Harney, the team’s point guard. He’ll be the assignment of James Bonds, Rocky Mount Prep’s dangerous point guard. Bonds is averaging 4.2 assists per game. Harney dishes out 8.1.
“If we can’t somehow contain him and boggle him down, we’ll be in for a long night,” Reams said.
The one difference between the teams is experience. Winston-Salem Prep might have just one senior in its starting lineup, compared to five for Rocky Mount Prep, but the Phoenix is the more experienced team.
It has been to this point before. Rocky Mount Prep is making its first trip.
“It’s very hard because everybody wants to knock your head off,” Gould said. “... You just hope your guys are concentrating. The key is to make sure you’re not satisfied with what you accomplish in the past. That’s the key words: The past.”
The two teams will prepare for each other during the next four days. Gould called Rocky Mount Prep a juggernaut, and Reams pointed to Winston-Salem Prep’s accolade from last year: The 1-A state championship crown.
“We’ve got a good team to get ready for,” Gould said.
“We’ll be ready to play the best game of our life Saturday,” Reams said
That sounds similar, too.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com.