Rocky Mount Prep might not play for another state championship this year, but they still have one title in mind.
The Jaguars have yet to win a conference championship in any sport, and this year’s boys’ basketball team took the first step toward being that team Friday night with a 74-65 victory against North Edgecombe in their Two Rivers Conference opener at Rocky Mount Preparatory School.
“No coach is ever completely satisfied, but it feels very, very good to win,” said Rocky Mount Prep coach Don Reams, whose team won only once during summer league play. “It’s nice to be 1-0, and it’s good to have a chance to keep moving forward in the conference.”
The Jaguars (5-8, 1-0 Two Rivers) played for the 1-A state championship last year, the first in school history, but after graduating six seniors and more than 85 percent of its total points, Rocky Mount Prep has refocused goals this year – the school’s first conference title.
“The only way you are going to be conference champions is to win one game at a time,” Reams said. “Hopefully, the good things we did, we’ll be able to improve upon them.”
Rocky Mount Prep took an early lead on North Edgecombe (1-9, 0-1) and held on late, showing enough poise to knock down five free throws in the final minute after the Warriors tied the game in the fourth quarter.
Rocky Mount Prep went 14-for-20 from the free-throw line in the final quarter.
Trailing by as many as eight points in the second half, North Edgecombe tied the score midway through the fourth quarter before fatigue took a toll on its personnel. The Warriors were forced to change from a trap defense to a zone, and Rocky Mount Prep was able to find lanes and easy baskets.
“We’ve got to sell out on the defensive end,” Warriors coach Mike Jones said. “We’ve got to play 32 minutes, not just two quarters. We’ve got to play all four quarters. That has been the thorn in our side this whole season.”
North Edgecombe 57 Rocky Mount Prep 47
The only thing that really stopped the Warriors early was an officiating gaffe.
The Warriors and Jaguars played the first quarter with a boys’ ball instead of the smaller girls’ basketball.
It didn’t seem to bother North Edgecombe too much as the Warriors opened conference play with a victory.
“Like I told the girls, ‘It’s a whole new season,’” North Edgecombe coach Marion King said. “‘Everybody is starting over. Go out there and play your best. Leave everything on the court.’ I said, ‘If you go out there and start strong, we’ll finish strong.’ And they did just that.”
North Edgecombe (5-5, 1-0) led by nine at the half and stretched the lead to 21 to start the fourth quarter against Rocky Mount Prep (2-7, 0-1).