Prep’s boys playing their best ball at the right time

Prep’s boys playing their best ball at the right time
March 03
00:00 2016
Photo by Craig T. Greenlee
Prep point guard Justice Goodloe (10) has continued to elevate his overall level of play this season.



This is the time of year when all teams with state championship aspirations must show themselves worthy. It’s that time to go into prove-it mode. You either win to play another day, or you lose and call it a season.

Entering the first weekend in March, Winston-Salem Prep’s boys’ are right where they want to be – headed to the Class 1-A West Regional final of the state basketball playoffs. The Phoenix, the region’s No. 5 seed, punched its ticket by imposing its will in a convincing 68-52 road victory over top-seeded Avery County on Tuesday night in a fourth-round match-up.

“Our motto for this year is: ‘tough players win,’” said coach Andrew Gould, whose team improved to 21-7. “We’re moving the ball and sharing the ball and we’re playing together as a team. Every night, it’s always somebody different who steps up to give the team what it needs.”

Prep now shifts its focus to the next round. The Phoenix will face high-scoring Lincoln Charter in the regional championship on Saturday. Game site and tip-off time were announced on Wednesday after The Chronicle went to press.

Saturday’s winner will play for the state championship on March 12 in Chapel Hill.

The Phoenix got the max from its inside/outside game, much to the dismay of a standing-room only crowd in Avery County’s home gym. Freshman swing player Chaz Gwyn, who led all scorers with 22 points, provided all the perimeter firepower that Prep needed.

In the paint, 6-7 junior power forward Zaire Williams dominated with 20 points. Justice Goodloe scored 11 points and Kendrick Edwards finished with nine.

The Phoenix got off to a slow start and trailed 15-10 at the end of the first quarter. In the second quarter, the momentum changed in Prep’s favor. The Phoenix doubled their first-quarter offensive output to take a 31-25 lead at the half.

Winston-Salem Prep seems to be peaking at the right time at both ends of the floor, especially with its defense. In handing Avery County (26-4) its only home loss of the season, the Phoenix outscored the Vikings 16-9 in the final quarter to settle the issue.

“We played great defense tonight,” said Gould. “We just locked up and played tough defensively. This group is playing its best basketball of the season. That’s what’s most important at this time of year.”

A win over Lincoln Charter on Saturday will send Prep to the state championship game for the fifth straight year. Over the past eight years, the Phoenix has developed into a bona fide powerhouse at the Class 1-A level.

During that stretch, Winston-Salem Prep has won four state titles, which included a three-peat in 2012, 2013 and 2014. A year ago, the Phoenix lost for the first time in the state finals (73-70 to East Carteret).

Gould has developed a deep appreciation for this year’s squad, which has only three seniors on its roster. The Phoenix’s collective attitude about the game, he explained, gives this year’s team an identity that makes them unique.

“The best way to describe it is all for one and one for all,” said Gould. “Every player is most concerned about doing his part. With this group, nobody cares who gets the credit or the glory. It’s all about winning.”

Prep reached the fourth round of this year’s playoffs by making quick work of Matthews Queen’s Grant in a third round contest last Saturday. The Phoenix led 20-4 at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.

Gwyn led the way with a game-high 33 points and Daivien Williams chipped in with 14. Williams finished with 11 points.


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