Phoenix takes home Frank Spencer championship

In his first year as head coach, Josh Pittman has a Frank Spencer Championship on his mantle.

Phoenix takes home Frank Spencer championship
December 29
14:29 2021

Josh Pittman could not have asked for a better start to his first year as head coach of the Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy boys’ basketball team. Not only has the Phoenix played well in their non-conference schedule, they put it all together to win the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools bracket of the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic.

“Of course, I was thankful and the first thing I did was thank God and the first thing I just looked at the faces of the kids and that’s what it was all about for me,” Pittman said about winning the Frank Spencer Tournament. “Just seeing those kids succeed when so many people doubted them and said we were going to have a down year.

“Just to see those guys be able to call themselves champions and enjoy the fruits of their hard work and labor meant the world for me. That’s the joy of it for me. Me personally, I like to see these young kids do well, be champions, and hopefully that will translate later on in life, and that’s a memory they can take forever.”

The Phoenix came into the tournament as the No. 3 seed and their confidence was high because of their play during a tough non-conference schedule. They were 4-2 prior to the Frank Spencer and Pittman knew that challenging schedule would bode well for his team.

“Normally at Prep, they put together a tough schedule because basically in Winston, we are normally the only 1A school, period,” said Pittman. “So, we always play those rivals like Glenn, Mt. Tabor, and Walkertown, and all the other schools in the area you can play.  

“It’s going to be a hard schedule regardless, but you get prepared because everything we saw in our non-conference schedule, we pretty much were going to see at the Frank, so it was good for us.”

Parkland was the first team Prep was to play in the Frank Spencer. The Phoenix had already played the Mustangs twice heading into the Frank Spencer and we all know how tough it is to beat a team three times in the same season.

“I just tried to tell our guys to stay grounded and to understand that it’s very difficult to beat a team three times and to make sure we play our game and we focus on ourselves,” he said. “I was just constantly talking to the guys when I saw them in the hall and telling them that we have a big game and to play them like we have never played them before. I think that’s how they approached it and it ended up helping us out in the end.”

Prep dominated Parkland, beating the Mustangs 71-50 in their first-round game.

“I just knew that we could kind of exploit the matchups with them and we kind of take away some of their strengths,” Pittman said about the matchup with Parkland. “I knew if we could hold some of their key players down a little bit below their averages, then we would be able to beat them.

“They have some good guys and they are well coached and if their guys get going, then it could be a long night. Our goal was to try and keep their best player right at that 15-point mark and hold everybody else at bay, or at least below their average, and thankfully we were able to do that.”

For their semifinal game, the Phoenix faced North Forsyth. The Vikings are a scrappy team with a lot of length that makes them very tough defensively.

“The North Forsyth game was different because we played them in a jamboree in the summer and when we played them at the Frank, they had added three or four new players that we hadn’t seen before,” he said. “They came out in a 2-3 zone and a 1-3-1 press and the smallest guy on the team was 5’9” and everybody else was 6’5”, 6’6” and up.

“So, we had to basically adjust and just stay close and keep grinding and doing what we were doing by figuring out ways to attack the zone until the rim opened up. At any point with my team, because we have almost five players averaging double digits, that rim is going to open up for somebody. And once it opens up, we have opportunities to go on good runs, which we have done throughout the year.”

Pittman knew they still had one more game to win, so he wanted to make sure he kept his team levelheaded and not get too full of themselves.

“I just reminded them that we are trying to make history and a lot of people didn’t expect them to be there,” he stated. “A lot of people made comments when I took the job and said that all the players were gone and Prep wasn’t the same and I just told them this was an opportunity to prove that you guys are worth it and can overcome the obstacles that people try to put in front of you.

“It was a chance to go out and make history, so for the next few years every time someone says Frank Spencer, they have to say Winston-Salem Prep won the Frank Spencer in 2021. I just tried to find the little motivational things that I could to keep them grounded and hungry and they did the rest, because they were locked in.”

For Pittman, he liked his team’s chances against South Stokes after watching the Sauras play against Reagan.  

“I watched them against Reagan and I knew we would match up well with them, because they were similar in size with us,” he continued. “I felt like we could play our game, we could press them and get them to play a little faster than what they were accustomed to.  

“I was hoping that the rim would open up for us and we finally knocked down some shots. Everybody was on point and I knew if we came and showed up, that we would have a good chance of winning.”

Pittman is a confident coach and says he felt his team would gel quickly when he saw their play during the preseason.

“To be honest, I knew in November when we played in the Jamboree and I saw what we were doing,” he said. “I knew we had to develop, we gotta work on our skill, but most importantly, we have to take advantage of our strengths and our strengths are we’re scrappy, we’re hungry, and we play hard.  

“If you can get your kids to do those three things in basketball, you have one foot in the door, because those are hard qualities to find these days. Once I knew that we could do that and we could play at that level, my job was easier. I said we could make some noise, especially if people sleep on us, and I feel that a lot of people are still sleeping on us.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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