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Terry Sanford girls basketball triumphs, thoughts on All American Conference team, and this week's picks


You’d think a basketball coach with control of his own schedule might want to ease into things and put down a few tune-up games at the start of the season so his team could find itself and get established before the run through the conference.

That’s not the kind of schedule Terry Sanford girls’ basketball coach Chris Goodman had in mind when he started planning for his Bulldogs.

“We wanted to make a statement early,’’ he said. “This group put in some work, started after it back in March. We had a really, really tough summer and a pretty good fall.’’

So when Goodman went hunting for early season opposition, he found it as tough as they come when he scheduled Terry Sanford to open at an invitational tournament at Greenfield School in Wilson against state 2A power North Pitt.

North Pitt is coming off a 27-3 season where it lost in the 2A Eastern Regional finals to state runner-up Seaforth. Terry Sanford had an impressive run too, last going 23-6 with a loss to state 3A runner-up Rocky Mount in the fourth round.

The cupboard at North Pitt is anything but bare this year as it returned its top player from last year, 5-6 NC State commit Zamareya Jones. Joining the roster is another national prospect, freshman guard Jordan Speller, 5-7, and the team added height with 6-1 sophomore Zihana Lightfoot.

Beyond making a statement, Goodman wanted to expose his relatively young team to the pressure of the spotlight early. The Wilson tournament drew large crowds and Goodman wanted to see how his players would react in an uncomfortable environment. North Pitt is less than an hour's drive from Wilson and was the defacto home team for the game. 

“Just going and playing any team from the 252 (northeastern part of North Carolina) is a different environment, different style of basketball,’’ Goodman said. “The crowd is really into it. I wanted them to see that kind of atmosphere.’’

Terry Sanford responded with a 64-53 victory, led by its junior captain Breonna Roaf.

She made 8 of 13 field goals and was 10-for-10 on free throws for 28 points. She also handed out seven assists and had four steals and four rebounds.

“We have talent on our team,’’ Roaf said. “I wasn’t too worried. We’re still ring chasing.’’

With the youth on this year’s team, including three freshman starters, Roaf feels it important to play a leadership role.

“I should be leading them in the right way and not show them the wrong thing to do,’’ Roaf said. “Teamwise I want to build that sister bond. We’re already there, but I want it to be stronger where it’s unbreakable, in tight games, on and off the court.’’

Goodman said the win didn’t really show him anything new about his team, just affirmed what he suspected that his players are tough and won’t back down from anything.

He’ll find out more about that tonight as they face another early challenge, traveling to face Rolesville in the Southeast Raleigh Invitational.

Rolesville didn’t play its first game of the season until after the deadline for submitting this story. Last year the team made the fourth round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs, losing to regional runner-up Durham Hillside.

Earl’s Pearls

I’ve long had an issue with the way some conferences chose their all-conference teams, especially in sports like football where you have multiple players at various positions.

I appreciate the need to recognize athletes for an outstanding season, but I also feel you can go too far.

This week, the All American Conference announced its 2023 all-conference football team. They not only went too far, they practically left the galaxy. 

Football, for those who don’t know, has 22 first team positions on offense and defense. If you throw in a spot for a placekicker and a punter, which is reasonable, that lifts the number to 24.

Care to guess how many players made first team in the All American Conference? Nearly triple that number. Counting the three players who won Player of the Year awards and are not included on the main team, there are 63 players honored.

Forgive me folks but this isn’t a recreation league. We’re not supposed to be handing out participation trophies. Making all conference should mean something, but if you’re handing out awards to everyone that’s a starter it dilutes the significance.

I know why coaches do this though. There was a time I sat in all-conference meetings and counted votes. Year after year, I would see coaches emotionally invested in their players and trying to reward them for what they accomplished. I certainly appreciate the significance of that bond.

But when they hand out the Heisman Trophy, they don’t give it to one guy from each school. Handing out prizes to everyone because folks don’t want to make tough decisions waters it down for the truly deserving. 

This week’s picks

I had my second straight perfect week of state playoff picks, going 2-0 to put the total for the year at 65-20, 76.5 percent.

Here’s the lone game for this week.

Southern Alamance at Seventy-First — On paper, this will be the toughest game of the season for the Falcons. Southern Alamance enters the game with a pair of 1,000-yard running backs and the ability to chew up the clock and score points.

Seventy-First will counter with an equally solid running game along with the ability to go to the air when needed and a defense that’s clearly one of the best in the state.

If Southern has a notable weakness it’s on the defensive side of the ball. Just last week Terry Sanford scored 21 points on the Patriots. Five times this season they’ve allowed teams to score in the 20s. Only six times have they allowed 14 points or less.

With defense plus home field, the edge goes to Seventy-First … Seventy-First 28, Southern Alamance 7.

A reminder that now that the winter sports season is underway, CityView Athletes of the Week will resume with the email newsletter of Dec. 1. All performances that took play since the winter sports season began will be eligible for nomination the first week. Parameters will change for the remainder of the winter sports season.

Please remember to send a head and shoulders photo of the athlete, not an action picture, along with a summary of his and her accomplishments for a single performance or multiple performances. The weekly deadline will remain noon on Wednesday. First nominations for the winter will be closed on Nov. 29.

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on X, formerly known as Twitter: @EarlVaughanJr.

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Terry Sanford, All America Conference, first team, basketball, football, Chris Goodman, runner-up, sports