Photo Credit: Reggie Raynor Twitter ( @reg2ray)

How can a 14 loss team win a state title? Northwood Temple Head Coach James Strong had a simple answer, “Playing in Phenom Hoops events early, playing that hard schedule prepared us for this run. What you do Jamie, and Rick, you give us a platform. We play in great environments, against great teams and we win some and lose some, but that is what got us ready for this. I told the guys, we won’t see anything we haven’t seen before.”

Coming into the 1A NCISAA state championship tournament, Northwood Temple was 19-14. As the 4-seed, they ended beating the 5-seed, 1-seed, and 3-seed on their run to claim the title. Head Coach James Strong used a stifling zone defense to slow the game down in the half-court and he was able to mix in a half-court trapping defense that created turnovers behind the speed, toughness, and quickness of Manny Sepulveda and Jaquante Harris.

Northwood Temple only allowed 55 points per game, on average, throughout their playoff run and they gave up only 44 to win the state title.

A look through their line up you immediately see sophomore Jaquante Harris who was the game’s leading scorer, with 14 points. He was also the initial point of attack defender for the team, using quick-twitch athleticism and strength to be a pest on that end of the floor. Harris was one of the big stock risers overall from the weekend as he inserted himself into the 2022 point guard conversation. Senior UNCG commit Reggie Raynor went out on top here, as he went 6-6 from the free-throw line over the final 2 minutes, to seal the victory for his team, just as your senior captain should do.

We would be remised to not mention junior point guard Manny Sepulveda and junior forward Angel Dean and the role they played for the team. While they did not fill the scoring column, what the did to provide excellent defense, ball protection, and rebounding. Also, Yohann Axel held Rice signee Mylyjael Poteat to 4 points before fouling out. These three were absolutely vital pieces in this game.

Overall, Northwood Temple was not phased. Even after Burlington School jumped out to an 11-0 lead and then took a 24-15 lead into halftime. Strong’s message, “we have been here before”.

Now, James Strong and his team are state champions. The 23-14 4-seed of the NCISAA boys 1A state tournament came out on top and hoisted the trophy. A year after taking his team to the 1A finals, and losing 70% of its scoring, Strong said after the game, “I got me some bling”. Yes you do Coach!