Well-rounded performances serving Yellow Jackets well
With its 67-53 win over Piedmont on Jan. 31, the Forest Hills boys basketball team stayed in contention for the top spot in the Rocky River 1A/2A conference behind only Cuthbertson, which has a 10-0 record in league play.
But it wasn’t the win itself that had Forest Hills coach Warren Taylor enthusiastic. Rather, it was the way his team won.
Roshad Gibson led the way with 14 points, followed by Jarvis Wilson (12 points), Terrance Huntley (11) and Kalief Harrison and Roderick Poag, who scored 10 each.
“When we have four or more people in double figures, we’re playing our best,” Taylor said. “That means they’re working hard to find the open guy and everybody’s contributing. We don’t’ have that prolific scorer, but I like the balance. I think that makes you harder to defend because teams can’t just key on one particular person when everyone’s capable of scoring.
“We’re playing a little bit better, and it’s the right time to be doing a little bit better,” Taylor continued. “That’s what you hope for, but we still have a lot of improving to do.”
The Yellow Jackets played well on the boards and on the defensive end against Piedmont. As a team, the Yellow Jackets collected 36 rebounds and 13 steals, led by Wilson and Gibson, who had four steals apiece. Wilson also matched Poag’s game-high eight rebounds.
Taylor said that at 6 foot 2, Wilson is more of a natural guard but is one of the team’s best interior players.
“He works so hard on the glass,” Taylor said. “At 6-2, he’s outworking 6-4 and 6-5 guys. I’ve got to have him on the glass because he knows how to use his body, and he’s fundamentally sound down there. He’s a great kid and a pleasure to coach. He’s not concerned with anything but the team winning and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. He’s done a great job for us.”
Forest Hills next plays on Friday, Feb. 3, when the Yellow Jackets travel to Cuthbertson. The Cavs won the last meeting, 83-59, but Forest Hills was missing Gibson (13 points, three steals, three assists per game), who sat out with an injury.
The Yellow Jackets then host North Stanly on Tuesday, Feb. 7 and Parkwood on Wednesday, Feb. 8 before travelling to rival Monroe to close the regular season on Friday, Feb. 10. Taylor said he’s put a different spin on an old cliché to prepare his team’s mind-set for the postseason.
“The way we’ve approached the whole second half of the season is we’re not looking at the stretch – we’re just looking at one game at a time,” Taylor said. “We say, ‘All right, this is a must-win game’ because when you get to the playoffs, it’s do or die. So you have to start feeling that pressure.”
Forest Hills girls face ‘murderer’s row’
Forest Hills girls basketball coach Eddie “Pop” Rivers didn’t mince words when discussing his team’s final week of the regular season, which includes a trip to Cuthbertson (Friday, Feb. 3) and visits from Parkwood (Tuesday, Feb 7) and North Stanly (Wednesday, Feb. 8) before traveling to Monroe on Friday, Feb. 10 to close out the regular season.
“What did they used to say, ‘You have to take a trip through Murderer’s Row’?” asked Rivers. “We’ll play the schedule that’s been made because that’s what you do. But we’re really getting (a trial) by fire here a little bit, and I don’t see that as a bad thing. I told (our players that) I do not want to lose our position in the conference. I think we’re in good shape.
“This is going to be good for us. I don’t know if I can talk (the players) into it, but I think it’ll be good for us as we move forward.”
The Yellow Jackets currently are 13-6 overall and 10-1 in Rocky River 1A/2A conference play. The one loss came to North Stanly, 79-61, on Jan. 13, but Rivers said his team’s effort last time should serve them well in the rematch.
“I think the girls are up to the -challenge,” he said. “We played well at North Stanly, which is a tough place to play. We played hard. We came up short, but I was not displeased. I’m hoping we get the same kind of effort here.”
Redhawks’ sights still high
The Monroe boys fell to 9-9 overall last week after dropping consecutive games to Piedmont, Forest Hills and Cuthbertson. While the losses might have put the Redhawks out of contention for winning the top spot in the Rocky River 1A/2A conference, coach Johnny Sowell said his team still has the same goals – it just might need to readjust the way it achieves them.
“Our goal is to win the next five games and have a No. 1 seed for the playoffs,” Sowell said.
The Redhawks earned the first of those five wins with a dominant victory over Piedmont on Jan. 31, a good sign for Sowell, whose starting lineup consists of four sophomores and a junior.
Sowell added that Garrett Parker, a sophomore forward, has joined the team after starting the season on JV. The coach thinks the newcomer should provide a spark in the post, especially with upstart Union Academy, Central Academy of Technology & Arts and rival Forest Hills on next week’s schedule.
But even with the recent losing stretch, Sowell said his young team needs to be ready for stiff tests from each of its remaining opponents.
“We know (people are gunning for us), and we let out kids know that,” Sowell said. “People are gunning for us in every sport, particularly football and basketball. We know that. I guess that means something. If you’re gunning for us, the respect must be there. You don’t gun for the teams on the bottom, you gun for the teams that have been on the top.”