PRICE IS RIGHT FOR PANTHERS:Dudley boys’ coach David Price knows a thing or two about cultivating point guards. In his first two state finals as the Panthers’ coach, the team’s floor general was one of his sons. Jemaine (Dudley class of 1997) helped the Panthers to the 1996 4A championship, four seasons before then senior Damien and his teammates reached the 3A title game. Jemaine, now a Dudley assistant coach, is carrying on the family tradition of developing leading backcourt players.
"He’s very focused, a no nonsense young coach, and I think coach (Brian) Seagraves is, too,” David Price said.
Seagraves, another Panthers assistant, also was a point guard at the Greensboro school.
Jemaine distributed the basketball to the likes of future ACC players Vincent Whitt (Clemson) and Brendan Haywood (North Carolina), while current Dudley point guards Barry Ferrell (6-0) and 5-9 sophomore Josh Chavis split time at the position with responsibilities for dishing passes to the likes of 6-7 Wake Forest recruit Kevin Swinton, and 6-6 junior William Graves, who has committed verbally to North Carolina. Heading into Saturday’s 3A championship game (the Panthers’ second straight) versus Shelby Crest, the tandem has combined for 11 assists per game.
Defensively, the elder Price has deferred responsibilities for determining how Dudley will match up with opposing personnel to his understudies.
“I think those guys are very thorough, and it’s not only that,” the head coach continued. “It’s, like, just telling them how to play and trying to convince them not to reach. I think they’ve been really good for us.”
OBLIVIOUS TO HISTORY: There is no need asking Asheville girls’ coach Sonita Gibbs about any “fanfare” surrounding the Cougars’ date with High Point Central for the 3A title. Asheville’s national ranking (No. 18 in the ihigh.com poll) and 53-game winning streak, the perception that the two best teams are playing on the last day of the season, or the fact that the Cougars could become the first non-1A school to win three consecutive state crowns are non-factors leading up to Saturday’s game.
“We’re just content playing one more game of basketball,” Gibbs said. “If we have to make adjustments, we’ll make adjustments. But we’re going to try to make High Point play our game. They’re going to try to make us play their game.”
Gibbs, who has not seen the Bison play, in person, this season, said High Point Central’s addition of Kristen Phillips (a 6-5 junior who has committed verbally to Connecticut) makes last year’s 63-55 Asheville win – in the Western Regional final – an inaccurate gauge for this year.
“She’s a bona fide, get after you post player,” Gibbs continued, “and that’s going to make them that much more tougher.”
GOING FOR FOUR: Thomasville senior backcourt mates Tyronnica “Wudi” Alford and Impriss Manning are seeking to become the first individuals to play for four state championship squads in over a decade. The 5-8 Alford, headed to UNC-Asheville, contributes 11.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per outing, while the East Carolina-bound Manning (5-7) nets 11.3.
Not since Hayesville’s unprecedented run of six consecutive 1A titles (from 1988-1993) has girls’ basketball been dominated in a fashion resembling that of the Bulldogs, winners of 53 straight games who will face Weldon for the 1A crown. Hayesville had a scoring differential of +23 points in its title tilts, while Thomasville outscored Midway (2002) and Farmville Central (2003, 2004) by an average of just under 16 points.
DOUBLE TAKE—TIMES TWO?: For the second time in three seasons, the Thomasville boys’ biggest challenge could come from within their own school. The 1A boys’ state final, pitting the perennial power Bulldogs versus first-time participant North Johnston, is scheduled on the heels of the 1A girls’ contest, in which Thomasville is favored heavily.
A Bulldogs sweep would mark their second such feat since 2003, and the second time a school has won both boys’ and girls’ championships in the same season more than once. John Wilkinson (Belhaven) pulled off a repeat sweep in 1978 and 1979.
Note: Thomasville won the 1AA football state championship this past fall. No school, ever, has captured football and both basketball titles in the same school year.