Same old song and dance

Published 9:56 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NEWBERN — The Tigers travel to Greensboro tonight to take on Akron in the first round of the Hale County Tournament.

“We’re back-to-back champions in the county,” Sunshine head coach Walter Jones said. “We’ve got to beat Akron for a chance to defend the title.”

The tournament comes at an opportune time for the Tigers who are looking to rebound from a tough area loss to Linden last Friday.

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“The game was there for anyone to take,” Jones said of a contest that slipped away from Sunshine in the second half.

Jones said his team struggled with many of the same issues it has been working to overcome for the majority of the season.

“Turning that ball over. Pretty much it’s the same song, not valuing the ball,” Jones said. “They’ve got to put a premium on possession of that ball.”

Still, despite his team’s affinity for turnovers, Jones is encouraged by much of what he sees on the floor.

“As much as we turn it over and give up second chance shots, we’re right there in the fourth quarter,” Jones said. “They’re playing hard, they really are.”

In Friday’s contest, Sunshine was tasked with limiting the Patriots and their primary scoring threat, Kendarius Goodwill.

“Their two-guard, Goodwill, we kept him in check the first half. He probably had two points,” Jones said of his team’s defensive performance, which waned in the closing minutes of the game. “It’s just not having that discipline to finish ball games.”

Jones attributed a great deal of the Tigers’ struggles to the team’s inexperience.

“There’s not a whole lot of experience,” Jones said. “We just didn’t know how to finish a ball game. A crucial possession here and we’d do something foolish.”

The team’s lack of experience showed itself last Friday not only through turnovers, but also through other mishaps such as one incident in which the team sustained a technical foul after one of its players hung on the rim following a blown dunk.

“Anybody’s confidence kind of drops after you hit a little rough spot,” Jones said before reiterating his belief that his team will right itself in short order. “They work hard. They don’t complain as much as I fuss. We have all the athletic ability. We just have to put the mental part with it.”

Jones also said he has been encouraged by the emergence of players such as John May, whose consistent play has complemented the double-double average of 6-foot-8-inch big man Dayton Mickens.

Before they return to area play next week, the Tigers are focused squarely on defending their county crown.

“We’ve always been in the championship,” Jones said of Sunshine’s perennial presence in the Hale County Tournament finals.