Phoenix advance to fourth round of NCHSAA 1-A playoffs; win 21st straight game
By Marc Pruitt
Two down, three more wins to go for Winston-Salem Prep in its quest for another state championship.
This one wasn’t easy, either.
Prep grinded its way to a 71-60 win against South Stokes Saturday in the third round of the NCHSAA 1-A state tournament—the second straight Northwest 1-A Conference opponent the Phoenix dispatched in the playoffs—to advance to the Western Regional semifinals.
Daivien Williamson led Prep with 30 points, Chaz Gwynn finished with 16, and Justice Goodloe added 11 as the Phoenix won its 21st straight game.
Prep (24-3) never trailed, but it had to fight off a feisty South Stokes team that wouldn’t go away.
South Stokes (20-8) utilized an extended a 3-2 zone in the first half in hopes of limiting Prep’s outside shooting threats, but Williamson, Gwyn, and Goodloe connected on five 3’s, four of which came during the first quarter that led to a 22-11 lead.
Coach Andre Gould said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort during the first half despite building a 31-24 lead at halftime.
“We got out early and starting relaxing,” Gould said. “I wasn’t worried as much about them shrinking our lead, I was more concerned with our effort. At the end of the day, if you aren’t playing hard and consistent, then what are we here for? We came out in the second quarter and started taking them lightly, allowing South Stokes to run their stuff and become efficient. We’ve got to be disruptive, and I didn’t think we were being disruptive.”
Prep also had a hard time containing the Sauras 6-9 center Ben Bowen, who finished with 20 points—12 of which came in the first half.
Gould benched starting post player K.J. Watson to start the second half and went with a smaller lineup after inserting Essih Aird.
Watson went scoreless in the first half and Gould wasn’t happy with his defensive performance.
“He has been playing very well for us and I was upset with him in the first half,” Gould said. “I wanted to send a message to him that you’re only as good as your last time on the floor. If you’re a senior, and you want to keep playing, then you better play hard. I just had to send him the message that I’m still Coach Gould and that I’m still off my rocker a little bit. If he isn’t performing and doing what he is supposed to do, I’m going to sit him. I think he got the message. After about two minutes on that wood (bench), he tapped me and said ‘coach, I’m ready.’ And he went back out there and came back alive. He came back KJ.”
South Stokes clawed its way back to within three points at 35-32 with 5:35 left in the third quarter, but Goodloe fueled an 11-2 run by scoring six points as Prep’s defensive intensity picked up and forced several turnovers that lead to easy transition baskets and a 46-34 lead.
South Stokes never cut the lead under double figures after that until there was less than a minute left to play.
“We just picked it up on defense in the second half,” Goodloe said. “We knew we had to start forcing more turnovers and converting our opportunities. Coach told us we were lackadaisical at halftime and we didn’t have as much energy on defense as he expected and we needed to pick it.”
Gould said that Goodloe is an invaluable member of the team and it showed Saturday.
“You have him on the floor and he does so much that goes unnoticed,” Gould said. “Goodloe’s going to be what Goodloe is. A great point guard will find the right guys. Daivien’s job is a little easier because Goodloe is on the floor. We don’t win the game without either one of them, or Chaz, or without KJ waking up in the second half.”
Coach Jason Clark of South Stokes, whose team had lost its previous two games against Prep during the regular season, knew that trying to defend the Phoenix’s potent offense was more a matter of picking your poison.
“They got to the rim pretty well tonight,” Clark said. “Daivien did, Chaz was penetrating, Goodloe was penetrating—all of them were. There’s no holes out there. With other teams, you can pick and choose who you don’t really need to guard. You can’t do that with them. You have to respect everyone that comes on the floor and it’s hard to stay in front of them when they spread you out. We even went diamond in one on Chaz tonight because he killed us the first two games, but that opened up so many driving lanes for Daivien. When we went back to man (defense), that’s when we got back into it.”
Clark said he could not be prouder of his team and the season they had, especially his six seniors.
“I told them after the game that they’ve built this program,” Clark said. “To have 20 wins in this conference and to be ranked third in the state, they’ve built it from their freshman years. When Ben started as a freshman, they won six games. From then on, we’ve won 18, 18, and 20 and have continued that against harder talent. To win 20 games against the teams we’ve played is a very, very impressive year.”
Prep will take on North Stanly Tuesday night, and Gould said he hopes the effort is there from his team for all four quarters.
“If it isn’t, we’ll be going to the (Joel) Coliseum next weekend and watching them play,” Gould said. “They’ll be coming in fired up.”
South Stokes: Ben Bowen 20, Wesley Misenheimer 13, Tyliq Hairston 7, Brendyn Spencer 3, Brady Dudley 9, PJ Samuels 8
W-S Prep: Daivien Williamson 30, Chaz Gwyn 16, Justice Goodloe 11, Corey Rutherford 2, Essih Aird 3, Zack Austin 4, Jaheim Woodbury 3, KJ Watson 2