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Douglas Byrd High School women's basketball team ends its winning dry spell, Earl's Pearls and this week's picks


This isn’t the first time I’ve written on this general topic for CityView, but at least for the moment, this time it’s got a happy ending.

Ever since the Cumberland County Schools opened Jack Britt High School and ripped a huge chunk of the enrollment from Douglas Byrd High School, the Byrd athletic program suffered mightily.

Look back at the record books and you’ll see Byrd was consistently a top team in both football and women’s sports like softball and basketball before Britt.

But since the arrival of the Buccaneers, things have gotten bleak on Ireland Drive as its school district has no potential areas of growth and is surrounded by larger, more competitive schools.

My good friend Mike Molin, who maintains the outstanding high school sports information web page at ncprepsports.net, shared this unfortunate tidbit recently: None of Byrd’s fall sports teams recorded a win.

But the losing streak is finally over thanks to women’s basketball.

Shania McLucas scored 19 points and the host Eagles held off Red Springs in the fourth quarter to escape with a 34-32 win, ending Byrd’s school athletic drought for the current year.

Devon Murphy is in his second year as Byrd’s head women’s basketball coach, and while he’s not whining, he admits it’s a struggle trying to put his program on a winning level.

“You find a lot of our studetns who are in middle school and have the potential to be great end up leaving before they get to high school,’’ he said. Those players often migrate to a school district they consider better.

Murphy said it’s also hard to compete because the Eagles lack some basic resources other schools have.

McLucas agreed. “Simple utilities we could use in practice to get more reps in, be able to utilize our time more wisely,’’ she said. “I think a lot of the girls, including myself, could use it as motivation to keep wanting to play harder and keep winning.’’

McLucas and her current teammates aren’t responsible for all the frustration Byrd has suffered since the opening of Britt, they’ve just inherited it. But you can tell it’s not weighing her down or causing her not to focus on getting better.

As for the win over Red Springs and her play, she said, “I’ve got to knock down more shots, keep the energy up on the court. Even though I haven’t been a part of the losing streak, it still feels like I have something to accomplish.’’

Murphy credits Douglas Byrd Principal Kenneth Williams for reaching out to the community to try to fill some of the gaps in the basketball program’s needs.

“Our approach has been family first,’’ Murphy said. “We’ve been stressing we are family and we’re going to have to stick together and show the outside community that we are here and we’re going to compete regardless of what we have.’’

Murphy said his players are showing up early to practice, getting in extra work and putting up additional shots.

“Now they’ve got a taste (of winning),’’ he said. “They want more.’’

Earl’s Pearls

  • Congratulations to Pine Forest men’s basketball coach David May, who earned his 300th career victory last week with a 64-52 win at Gray’s Creek.
  • Pine Forest head football coach Bill Sochovka, who is also the head coach for December’s East All-Star football team in the East-West game at Grimsley High School’s Jamieson Stadium in Greensboro, has worked with the N.C. Coaches Association to organize a recruiting fair in conjunction with the All-Star game.

On Thursday, Dec. 14, at the Greensboro Coliseum, college football coaches from any school are invited to come and meet with potential recruits from the East-West team.

Colleges interested can arrive and set up at 6:30 p.m. The East-West players will meet with the college scouts at 6:45 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m., any high school coach who would like to come can show up to promote his players for the scouts. Coaches are asked not only to bring names of graduating senior prospects but also from the next two graduating classes.

Anyone planning to attend the recruiting fair needs to email ncca@nccoach.org by Dec. 7.

This week’s picks

I was 1-0 last week, upping the record to 66-20, 76.7 percent. Let’s see if we can do it again.

Northern Nash at Seventy-First — As I wrote elsewhere, this is a rematch of last year’s playoff duel between the teams, won by Northern Nash 23-22 on its home field.

Now the Knights bring their act down to Fayetteville.

Seventy-First had one of its toughest games of the year trying to contain the Southern Alamance Wing-T and escaped with a 32-27 victory.

Northern is a big-play type of passing team and that will be easier for the Falcons to defend I’m thinking, but the real key is going to be on offense.

The Falcons didn’t dominate Southern Alamance the way they have some teams this season, and from talking to Falcon players and coaches, they are definitely interested in more ball control this week and keeping Northern from getting too many chances to score.

I’m thinking that’s extremely possible for the Falcons to accomplish, and boosted by a healthy home crowd, I like their chances of doing it … Seventy-First 21, Northern Nash 14.

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

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Jack Britt High School, Douglas Byrd High School, Red Springs, women's, basketball, coach, head, player, play