Phoenix reels off 16 wins in a row

The Winston-Salem Prep boys basketball team has been undefeated in conference play this year.

Phoenix reels off 16 wins in a row
February 10
11:25 2022

Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy’s boys basketball team is back to their winning ways. In just his first year as head coach, Josh Pittman has turned the Phoenix back into one of the powerhouse programs on the 1A level.

The Phoenix are currently on a 16-game winning streak as of the writing of this article and are poised to not only win their conference, but to also make a deep run in the playoffs this year.

“After the Frank (Frank Spencer Tournament), they just really kind of bought in a little bit more,” Pittman said. “I think the Frank helped them realize what playing together and being locked in at all times can help them accomplish.  

“From there, it just took off and now they are just understanding that the team concept and playing the Prep way, the way I envisioned us playing, is always for each other making the extra pass and doing the little things. Now they are just starting to see the fruits of their labor.”

Pittman scheduled a tough non-conference schedule packed with 3A and 4A schools to better prepare his team for conference play and it has paid off tremendously.

“I think being able to play and actually just compete with them gave us a little bit more confidence and helped us deal with size that we would normally see going into conference,” he said. “I just kind of prepared us and it gave us the mentality that no matter what, if we do what we do and play our way, we have a chance to ultimately win.”

Prep has been dominating their opponents during conference play going undefeated thus far. They have several blowouts under their belt and look well on their way to another conference championship.

“I always expect, being a coach and having my demeanor and my approach to it, I always expect us to compete,” Pittman said about his team. “Me and the guys are real studious about watching film and I knew Bishop McGuinness is always a talented team, but the rest of the conference games, once I saw film, I knew we had a good chance.

“I could never say I thought we would win by 30 or 40 points and who knows, that could change. At this particular time, I can say I am impressed with them, I like the grind we have been doing and the path we’re on. We just have to keep doing it and keep that mentality.”

Pittman says his team has matured and gelled together as the season has progressed. Once the guys bought into him and his staff, things have gone very well for Prep.

“At the beginning, they thought they were just going to play and see where the chips fall,” he said. “I had some seniors that were coming in off of football that needed to adjust to the way I coach and the way I approach the game.  

“I knew after we started stacking good practices and understanding that you need to practice well to play well, the seniors and the leaders started stepping up a little bit more. The games have just been taking care of themselves. We have matured in so many ways, especially facing adversity and dealing with hostile environments. Looking at them play and remain poised is just huge for me.”

Prep really showed their resolve after playing Mt. Tabor the second time. Earlier in the season, the Spartans beat the Phoenix by 30 points. Heading into the rematch, Pittman told his guys to just play their game and they had a good chance of winning. Prep avenged that earlier loss with a 60-52 victory against Tabor on the road, on Jan. 12.

“I told them it was a chance to prove that you do belong in the conversation as one of the better programs in the city and that’s how they approached it,” Pittman said about what he told his team prior to the game. “To be honest, that is one of the better games we played all year; just completely locked in and played hard.”

There have been several players that have stepped up and played key roles for his team this year. He says seniors Michael Jordan and Jay Penn have done a tremendous job of being leaders on the team this year.

“They are undersized but they came in with the attitude that they wanted this senior year to be their year to prove to people that they could play the game of basketball on this level and to prove that they can do the right things on and off the court,” Pittman said about Jordan and Penn. “They came with that approach, as well as being great basketball players and great people.”

Other players such as Yohance Connor, Jamison Graves and Areon Matthews have also made great contributions to the team this season, Pittman said. Phillip Lavalais and Jaden Gonsalves have also made their mark coming off the bench for the Phoenix as well.

Pittman anticipated a successful season but didn’t know his team would do so well, so quickly.

“Honestly I wasn’t.  I know we had all the pieces and all the chances to do some wonderful things and when we played the jamboree we just had to get back in the gym and keep getting better,” he said about his team’s outlook to start the season. “I didn’t expect us to get the results that we have been getting so fast, but I feel like it’s God’s way and that’s what we have to keep doing.”

Few people expected the Phoenix team to do so well this season. Many thought this would be a rebuilding year for Prep. Pittman doesn’t feel validated from his team’s success; instead, he prefers to focus on the development of his players and their joy of winning.

“I tell them it’s still more work to be done.  I say, what’s the use of winning the game before if you lose the next one?  What’s the use of practicing if you’re not practicing hard,” Pittman says of what he tells his team. “I feel like for me to validate myself being from Winston and still not being in the hall of fame and stuff like that, I feel like my validation comes a lot harder than the average joe.

“Deep down I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody. I don’t have to show anybody I can do this, show anybody I can do that. I just have to continue to work and grind for my kids, this program, and I think God will take care of everything else.”

Pittman feels his squad has the makings to go as far as they want this year. He likes his team to take each game with the same importance instead of looking too far ahead.

“We go a game at a time,” he said. “Our goal as a team is to finish as high as we can as a seed.”

It’s not uncommon for kids that age to get a big head after winning so many games in a row. Pittman makes it a point to make sure his guys stay levelheaded and focused on the goal at hand.

“It’s just about consistency. After games let’s shake hands and let’s act like we have won big games, stay humble and let’s keep working,” he continued. “You can’t approach one goal in life as if you have done everything that you need to do in life.

“I keep telling them the goal is to stay humble, to stay hungry, because all in all you haven’t won nothing yet. You can enjoy and sit back and relax at the end of the season when it’s all said and done. But while you’re in the grind of it, all you need to do is work, be humble, and keep knowing that at any given time someone can knock you off.  

“As soon as you get complacent, somebody can knock you off. I refuse to let them do that. I tell them ‘I am on you every day because I refuse to let you be complacent and I refuse to let you settle,’ and as a coach that’s my job. They have taken to it and they have understood it.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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