ROCKINGHAM — The boys and girls basketball coaches and players at Temple Christian sound like a broken record when talking about their success this season.
They sum it up in one word — team.
“The young men have played together for three years,” said boys coach John Byrd. “Their success is accumulation of fundamental drills, of playing together and the maturity factor. They play very well together.”
Broderick Hair, the girls coach, echoed his counterpart’s feelings.
“They understand that it’s a team concept and they have bought into it,” Hair said. “Sometimes I have to get on them about passing too much. They have a wide-open layup and they pass it to the other side of the basket to a teammate who also has a wide-open layup. I have to get on them about being too unselfish.”
Both Byrd and Hair agree it is a nice problem to share, having to tell players to shoot the ball more instead of trying to tell a player to pass.
Right now the strategy is paying off for the Tigers. The girls are currently 8-0 overall and 7-0 in Carolina Christian Athletic Association Conference action and the boys are currently 11-1 on the season and 6-1 in league play. Both teams are first in the CCAAC.
Temple Christian will return to action today at home against South Pointe Christian School from Pageland, S.C. The girls are slated to play at 5 p.m. with the boys to battle in the nightcap.
The girls are led by the duo of Claire Jordan and Charis Byrd. Jordan is averaging 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds and Byrd is contributing 12.6 points and 4.2 assists per game. Joanna Gould is nearly adding a double-double a contest, averaging 8.7 points and 8 rebounds.
“Joanna has really stepped up and we are incorporating everybody in the offense this year instead of just one or two players,” Jordan said. “I’m looking to pass to the ball to a teammate and they are looking to pass it to me. We all want to be team players.”
Gould added she believes the chemistry away from the hardwood has allowed the team to come together on it.
“We all get along pretty well and work together on the court,” Gould said. “We don’t try to see how many points we can score individually, it’s about working together as a team instead of me, me, me. No one is really selfish.”
Hair said Charis Byrd embodies the idea of being unselfish. The lone senior on the team, Charis Byrd made the switch to point guard and saw her scoring average take a dip.
“She is running the show for us,” Hair said. “If I turned her loose, she would be averaging 20 points. I had a couple of refs make comments to me about how well they play together.”
Charis Byrd added she and her teammates are one unit when on the court.
“We seem to know what each other are going to do before they do it,” she said. “It is like we can read each other’s mind. We have such a camaraderie. We are all so close because it is such a small school.”
While Temple Christian’s girls team nearly has three players scoring in double figure, the boys squad has pulled off the feat, led by Kurth Nelson, who is averaging 19.9 points per game. Cuentin Bridges contributes 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, while Greg Hagins adds 12.2 points and 4.8 steals.
Nelson, the team’s go-to scorer the past two seasons, said having Bridges and Hagins help ease his load offensively, has allowed him to contribute in other areas.
“That has been a big part of our success,” Nelson said. “It has opened up my game more…on the defensive end. Instead of doing a lot of scoring, I can focus on my defense, like rebounding and blocking shots. And it has helped on the offensive end too. I’m not as tired anymore.”
Byrd said Nelson, the team’s main inside threat because of his height and long arms, has the ability to step out and knock down an outside shot. Byrd added seeing Bridges and Hagins improve on the offensive end was the icing on the cake to putting together a solid season.
“For the last two years we basically had one person we could rely on,” Byrd said. “Cuentin and Greg worked hard in the offseason and made themselves better. Cuentin is more of a slasher. He scores a lot of his points in the lane and Greg is more of our outside shooter.”
Bridges believes having confidence in himself and his teammates helped turn things around in his mind.
“Last year Mr. Byrd would yell at us at halftime about what we needed to do and we could cower from it,” Bridges said. “Our confidence has been built back up and we can count on everyone. I think our bond is the key to our success. We are all friends on the team.”
Hagins added having that kind of trust has made it easier from him to play with confidence.
“I know that my teammates will be there to get the rebound if I do miss a shot,” Hagins said. “It goes back to our maturity and learning to count on each other. We’ve matured and learned to work as a team. I felt like last year we played as a team, just not as much as this year.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.