One more to go

Published 7:56 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plymouth’s Carl McCray (23), Khalil Sheppard (11), Kendrick Pitt (21) and Sean Holloway (right of Pitt) walk off the court after topping Rocky Mount Prep in the NCHSAA 1-A East Regional finals in the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville Saturday. This Saturday, the Vikings will battle Winston-Salem Prep in the state championship game at the Dean E. Smith Center. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

They have already slayed one giant, now the question is can the Vikings do it again. Heading into last Saturday’s NCHSAA 1-A East Regional finals matchup with powerhouse Rocky Mount Prep, who ended the regular season as the fifth-ranked team in the state according to, there weren’t too many people that were picking Plymouth to come out victorious. However, the Vikings used a tremendous second-half effort to outrun the Jaguars 86-78 to win the East.
The reward for that victory is a date with star 6-7 G/F Greg McClinton and Winston-Salem Prep (30-1, Northwest), the No. 1 seed from the West, in Saturday’s state title showdown at 2:30 p.m. inside the Dean E. Smith Center.
McClinton, who is averaging 18.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, was named the West regional tourney MVP after guiding the Phoenix, who was tabbed the No. 1 team in the state by, to a 54-33 victory over Highland Tech last Saturday.
Just a junior, McClinton is one of the top prospects in the state, and according to ESPN, has already received offers from Louisville, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Miami and Xavier.
The No. 3 seed Vikings (23-4, Four Rivers) are led by a pretty good junior themselves in Carl McCray. In the East regional finals McCray shook off an injured ankle to drop 33 points on Rocky Mount Prep to earn tournament MVP honors. It’s that kind of performance that gives third-year coach Marvin Davenport hope that his Plymouth team can win its first state championship in school history.
“(Winston-Salem) is in the same shoes we are, they can’t put but five players on the floor and we can’t put but five people on the floor and the best team is going to win,” Davenport said.
According to Davenport, the key to the Vikings upset victory over Rock Mount was that his team played with the intense precision and unity of a Circus du Soleil act. It’s a performance that will have to be duplicated this weekend.
“Our kids stayed focused. We talked about leaving it on the floor, win or lose, so that when the game is over you can walk off the court feeling good that you gave it your best,” Davenport said. “They played focused and they played hard. They did what got us there: they played together and they stayed together.”
Helping keep Plymouth cohesive on the court are junior guards Khalil Sheppard and Kendrick Pitt. Sheppard leads the team with five assists per game, but Pitt is right behind him with 4.5, and together they represent Davenport on the court.
“Both of those young men are leaders on the floor. They do what it takes to win,” Davenport said. “It’s not all about scoring. These guys are kids that get steals, rebounds and assists and do what it takes to win. It’s a team effort.”
During any lengthy playoff run there is always a surprise star and for the Vikings that role has been filled by super sixth-man Adrian Moore. The 6-2 sophomore G/F burst on to the scene during the regionals where his 20 points per game average and infectious enthusiasm helped carry Plymouth to the state title game.
“Adrian is a competitive young man who loves to win, and in his winning he does it how it’s supposed to be done, with good sportsmanship,” Davenport said. “He steps up. When it comes to games like this he loves the challenge and the adrenaline gets flowing in him and he just goes out there and has fun. He leaves it on the floor.”
Come Saturday, Davenport said all his players need to do the same if they want to leave the floor of the Dean E. Smith Center victorious.
“We need to stay focused and do what got us here. We need to stay in the system, do what got us here and look for one another on the floor,” Davenport said. “As long as we play together we’ll be OK.”