Plymouth to resume playoff run tonight

Published 2:13 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plymouth guard Carl McCray (center) and the Vikings will be back in action tonight when they face East Carteret in the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional semifinal round of the playoffs at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

The ability to be fast, but also being patient, will be critical for Plymouth in tonight’s NCHSAA 1-A East Regional semifinal matchup with East Carteret when the two teams tip off at 8 p.m. inside the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville.
Plymouth’s roster is loaded with talent and athleticism, but third-year coach Marvin Davenport said the key to his team having a successful outing is to be disciplined and know when to fastbreak and when to ease off the accelerator.
“When we get the opportunity to run the ball down the court than that’s what we’ll do, but if we push the ball up the court and it’s not there then we have to set up,” Davenport said. “It all depends on what the defense gives, we take what the defense gives us.”
The No. 3 Vikings (21-4) captured the Four Rivers Conference regular season and tournament titles on the strength of stellar guard play and are led by senior Carl McCray and juniors Kendrick Pitt and Khalil Sheppard.
McCray, who was named to the WDN All-Area team last season, is an explosive guard who averages a team-best 20 points per game, while Sheppard is tops in assists with five per contest. Pitt is a well-rounded player who is scoring nine points a night while grabbing five boards and dishing out 4.5 assists per contest.
The play of that trio will factor greatly when Plymouth squares off against No. 5 East Carteret (18-9, Coastal Plains).
“Guard play will play a big role because these young men are our coaches on the floor,” Davenport said. “They have been playing together for quite some time now. I think one advantage that we might have is that we have three good guards.”
The Vikings also have some pretty good frontcourt players as well. Junior small forward Sean Holloway is a 6-3 sniper that can bury shots from anywhere on the court, while 6-4 junior Devonte Spruill and 6-5 senior center Stephen Lesesne bring size and strength to the painted area.
Having a good mix of size and speed allows Plymouth to adapt to its opponents and gives it the capability of winning in a variety of ways.
“We play hard and we play together and you can’t just pick out one player and play defense on him,” Davenport said. “I have 14 good ballplayers and some of then could probably be starters on other teams.”
With nobody on the roster bigger than 6-2, East Carteret coach Billy Anderson doesn’t have some of the luxuries that the Vikings have but the Mariners counter by playing an energetic, all-guard lineup that gets after it on defense.
“We’re very blue collar. We’re small and scrappy and we play extremely hard,” Anderson said. “We’re very guard-orientated and like to trap and run and play a fast-paced type game.”
The Mariners are led by guard Matt Collins, who was the Coastal Plains Player of the Year as a junior last season, and versatile 5-11 G/F Cornelius Johnson.
Collins, who got off to a slow start to this season after recovering from an injury, has come on of late and is leading the team in scoring with 18 points a game and is second in rebounding with 8 boards a night.
Johnson has brought a Magic Johnson-like presence to his team as he is second in scoring (16 ppg), while leading East Carteret in rebounds (8.2) and assists (4.6) per contest.
A lot of the Mariners’ success lies within their ability to press and trap but the effectiveness of their pressure could be reduced as they will be forced to cover more area playing on the college-sized court of the Crown Coliseum.
“I guess we’ll see. There’s now way to really simulate that, we can’t make our gym bigger,” Anderson said. “We’re just going to have to make sure that we are accountable and are doing things the right way.
“I think at the same time offensively, it might help us out a little bit because we like to spread out the floor and I think we can use that to our advantage as well.”