From a purely coaching standpoint, this has been Bill Tibbs’ most satisfying season as the architect of Winston-Salem Prep’s junior varsity basketball program. The Phoenix put together another stellar season-long run, which included winning the Lash-Chronicle Classic championship and the Northwest 1-A Conference regular-season title.
“This season has clearly been my most enjoyable,” said Tibbs, whose team was 18-1 overall and 9-1 in conference play with two games remaining in the regular season. “Coming in, everybody was new except for one player (sophomore Kendrick Edwards). This was the youngest team I’ve ever had, but they listened from the very beginning. I’ve had teams with more talent, but this group as a whole, was the most coachable.”
Winston-Salem Prep won 17 games in a row prior to suffering its first defeat of the season. The only blemish on the record was a 55-52 loss at East Surry on Feb. 5.
“With each victory, you could see that everybody’s confidence continued to grow,” said Assistant Coach Willie Patrick. “But the bottom line for these guys is that they really bought in to Coach Tibbs’ system. They accepted it and never questioned it.”
The Phoenix typically wore opponents down with fast-pace offense and revved-up defensive pressure. Prep was able to maintain a frantic tempo because of its ability to go 10-deep on its roster.
“Even though most of our players didn’t have any prior high school experience, most have played a lot of AAU basketball,” said Tibbs. “So, it wasn’t a matter of them having to learn how to play the game. It was more a matter of them learning how to play with one another.”
Edwards, who was voted Lash-Chronicle Classic MVP, was the key figure for the Phoenix. The 6-feet-3 power forward dominated the paint as a reliable inside scorer and relentless rebounder and defender.
W-S Prep, however, was far from being a one-player squad. Freshmen Josh Gould, Chrishawn Watson and Justin Carter more than held their own in their first year of high school hoops.
In the backcourt, Gould and Watson ran the offense and provided offensive spark whenever needed. Gould served primarily as a floor leader and stabilizer while Watson proved himself as a lethal shooter who can score off the dribble or from three-point distance. Carter, a small forward, creates match-up problems with his lateral quickness and his ability to score from inside and outside. Juwaan Ingram and Brandon Palmer came off the bench to lead a strong group of reserves.
“When I came to Prep I had no idea that it would be as difficult as it turned out to be,” said Watson, who scored a game-high 30 points in the Lash-Chronicle title game. “It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. All I wanted to do was become a better team player and help my team finish games.”
Carter looks back on his first high school season and realizes that while it was fun, it was also a season of preparation for what he hopes is three years playing on the varsity. Prep’s varsity has won three Class 1A state basketball championships over the last six years, so expectations are always high. Returning players and prospective players know that there’s no margin for error when the Phoenix has tryouts.
“I expected things to be difficult and that’s exactly how it was,” said Carter. “You have to be ready to keep up with the pace and the intensity every time you walk on the court. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s also good preparation for what we’ll face when we try out for the varsity next year.”