Secret of Their Success

 Secret of Their Success
January 01
00:00 2015

Prep earns bragging rights again 

(pictured above:  Brandon Palmer (11) leads the press for Winston-Salem Prep’s stifling defense. Photos by Charles E. Leftwich Jr.)

The final minutes of tightly-contested basketball games bring out the best in Winston-Salem Prep’s junior varsity. It’s during those crunch-time stretches when the Phoenix delivers and opponents fall by the wayside.

Prep bagged its third Lash-Chronicle championship in four years by staging late-game comebacks against pesky Reagan (60-53 in semifinals) and resilient West Forsyth (69-64 in finals) last week. The common denominator in both contests was the Phoenix’s uncanny ability to grab rebounds and chase down loose balls on every critical possession.

Coach Tibbs

Coach Tibbs

“We place heavy emphasis on making those plays at the end of games which determines the final outcome,” said Coach Bill Tibbs. “We feel like we should get every 50-50 ball. What it comes down to is playing hard. Good things happen when you play hard consistently. We tell our kids all the time that offense is exciting, but defense wins titles. Sometimes when you’ve won in the past, players listen. This group has bought into what we teach. They listen.”

Pressure defense sets the standard. Prep plays at a frenzied, but not desperate pace. It’s a calculating approach. Over the course of a game, the cumulative effect of Prep’s pressure causes rushed shots and ill-timed passes, which frequently leads to deflections, steals and points in transition for the Phoenix.

Prep wears opponents down because it can attack in defensive waves by pressing and trapping. The Phoenix has several rangy players, who make it difficult for opposing ball-handlers to operate efficiently.

Brandon Palmer, Jonathan McLaurin and Justin Carter use their size and quickness to clog the passing lanes and neutralize fast breaking teams. Palmer and Carter are both swing players who play multiple positions. McLaurin is a post player who’s agile enough to serve as the lead defender on Prep’s presses and traps.

“Jonathan is long and active when we apply pressure,” said Tibbs. “He has deceptive quickness, which makes him very effective. Brandon hasn’t learned everything he needs to know about being a point guard, but he defends and rebounds, and I can use him so many different ways. He does everything.”

Prep’s backcourt depth was tested during the Lash-Chronicle. Starting point guard Davier Dixon injured his wrist early in the quarterfinals vs. Lexington and did not play at all in the semifinals. His absence didn’t appear to have a negative impact. Dixon returned to the lineup for the championship game. While he didn’t score, Dixon provided a steady hand as a defender and ball-handler with the speed and quickness to beat traps and presses. “It didn’t hurt us any,” said Tibbs. “Actually, we didn’t miss a beat. But now that he’s back, it’s only going to help us the rest of the way.”

Tibbs has said that this year’s squad is the most complete that he’s ever had at Prep. Does that mean that this season’s JV crew is Prep’s best ever?

The W-S Prep Cheerleaders support their team at the recent Lash-Chronicle JV Basketball Tournament.

The W-S Prep Cheerleaders support their team at the recent Lash-Chronicle JV Basketball Tournament.

“This group hasn’t been together for very long,” said Tibbs. “All the right pieces are there for this team to do something special. It’s all a matter of them getting more game experience in playing with one another. As a coach, you’re always looking for different ways to keep players motivated so they don’t get complacent. Now the goal is to win the rest of the games on our schedule.”

So, is Winston-Salem Prep’s junior varsity unbeatable?
The answer is no.

Can the Phoenix handle the Tibbs challenge and do what no other JV team at Prep has ever done?

Maybe so, maybe not.
The coming weeks will tell.

About Author

Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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