Favorites upset at Garber tournament

Favorites upset at Garber tournament
December 29
00:00 2014
(pictured above: Dominique Claytor shoots a free throw.)

This is supposed to be the basketball season that Winston-Salem Prep’s girls make the big leap to the state championship stage. The Phoenix has most of the crew back from last spring, when it came agonizingly close to ending the reign of nine-time Class 1-A state champ Bishop McGuinness in the regional semifinals.

Given that bit of history, Prep was viewed as a likely candidate to win this year’s Mary Garber Holiday Tip-Off Classic. It would have been the first in school history. But it didn’t happen. Feisty Reynolds ambushed the Phoenix in a 48-43 upset in last week’s semifinals.

There’s no doubt about Prep’s hunger to reach the state final. The talent is there, but talent all by itself is not enough. It’s a matter of learning how to play through bad stretches and overcoming obstacles.



“Coming down the stretch (against Reynolds), we didn’t show a lot of mental toughness,” said Coach Eugene Love of Winston-Salem Prep. “When things are going great, it’s easy to stay positive and upbeat. But the true test is how you react when things don’t go in your favor. Right now, we’re still in the process of coming together. This team is still learning and still has a ways to go.”

Coaches and athletes don’t like to lose. It doesn’t matter if it’s the early part of the season. Every team would like to go undefeated. It happens, but it’s such a rare occurrence.

If the ultimate goal is to win a state championship, you understand this: state titles are not won in December. That’s not a catch-all phrase either. To validate that thought, all the Phoenix ladies have to do is look no further than their own campus grounds.

Prep’s boys teams have won three state titles in a row and four since 2008. But when it comes to winning the city’s premier Christmas tournament for boys – the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic – the Phoenix has yet to win that trophy. So, it’s a reasonable assumption that given a preference, folks who played on those title teams would much rather have state champion on their athletic resume as opposed to being known solely as Christmas tournament champs.

Jada Craig drives to the basket.

Jada Craig drives to the basket.

Fact is, having a lingering taste of a holiday tournament defeat should serve as prime motivation. The memories of being on the losing end should keep the Phoenix sufficiently amped up. That way, it’s far more likely that the ladies will play up to their full capability for the remainder of the season.

Prep didn’t deliver one of its better performances against Reynolds, especially at the free throw line (shot 46 percent for the game). Defensively, it was surprising that the Reynolds backcourt had so much success with dribble penetration and 3-point shooting. Tierra Wilson and Keke Eaton emerged as the primary culprits who were most responsible for Prep’s demise. Wilson and Eaton scored 14 points apiece to lead the way.

The Phoenix, in the meantime, didn’t generate offense in its usual manner. Reynolds limited its turnovers, particularly in the fourth quarter, which prevented steals that might lead to points in transition for Prep. Kristian Saunders (10 points) was the only Phoenix player to reach double digits in scoring.

“Free throw shooting was the difference in the game,” said Love. “When it comes to how we perform at the line, we’re all over the place. Without looking at the stat book, I recalled at least 10 missed fouls shots. One game we’ll shoot 40 percent, the next time 70, and it keeps going back and forth from one game to the next. That’s something we have to fix.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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