Northwood Temple Wins NCISAA 1A State Championship 

Northwood Temple 47 The Burlington School 44

We have often stated, “it’s not where you start that counts, but where you finish.” This statement is custom made for coach James Strong and Northwood Temple. Playing a challenging, yet brutal schedule, Northwood Temple wasn’t on anyone’s short list of making the NCISAA 1A state championship, much less winning it. Although, we did have Northwood Temple as one of our sleeper teams, no one really believed Northwood Temple could win back to back games to Trinity Christian and The Burlington School. After losing to Trinity Christian for the third time during the Sandhills Conference Tournament, Northwood Temple sported a modest 19-14 record, not to mention a 5-5 conference record. 

Northwood Temple opened up the NCISAA playoffs beating Neuse Christian Academy 79-51, then went on to defeat Victory Christian 71-61 to set up the fourth meeting with Trinity Christian. Trailing 65-64 with 22 seconds remaining, Northwood Temple had possession and worked the ball around when 6’1 sophomore guard JaQuantae Harris knocked down the game winning 3-pointer. Not only did he hit the game winner, Harris was fouled and proceeded to hit the free throw for the four-point play. Northwood Temple won 68-65 and advanced to the NCISAA 1 State Championship game against The Burlington School, who many picked as the early season favorite. 

In a game that see-sawed back and forth, it was the 1-2 punch of 6’6 UNC-Greensboro signee Reggie Raynor and 6’0 sophomore point guard JaQuantae Harris leading the way as they led the team in scoring with 15 and 14 points respectively. In speaking with head coach James Strong, they took some beatings and loses along the way. They started the season 0-2 losing to defending NCISAA 3A champion Carmel Christina and Concord First Assembly, who ended up winning the NCISAA 3A championship this year, and according to Max Preps, is the number one team based upon strength of schedule. Playing in the Sandhills Conference, which might just be one of the toughest conferences in the state regardless of affiliation, coach James Strong wanted his team to face challenges and adversities as a means to prepare them for the NCISAA championship run. Now, let’s take a closer look at standout players for Northwood Temple. 

6’6 2020 Reggie Raynor 

We’re talking about a super athletic wing that plays above the rim, but also has the ability to stretch the defense with his 3-point shooting. Raynor averaged a near “double double” of 19.0 PPG and 8.8 RPG. For the season, Raynor shot 58% from the floor, 38% from the 3-point line and 71% from the free throw line. For a player mostly known for his uber athleticism, Raynor proved to be an efficient shooter as well. 

6’0 2022 JaQuantae Harris 

For JaQuantae Harris, he has grown up quickly and is in the conversation as one of the better guards in the 2022 class. He averaged 14.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 2.4 SPG. Harris has developed a reputation as a fierce competitor and two-way defender. 

6’5 2020 Jay Hickman 

Hickman provided consistent and efficient perimeter shooting over the course of the season. Hickman averaged 14.2 PPG while shooting an 51% from the floor and an impressive 39% from the 3-point line. Hickman has good size, skill and above athleticism that should make him a scholarship level prospect. 

Coach James Strong 

In speaking with James Strong after the upset win over Trinity. He told Phenom Hoops the following: “I love this team. This team plays defense and defense wins championships.”

What was the turning point in the game? “Turning point was defense and JaQuantae Harris. With two minutes remaining in the game, JaQuantae came over and told me, coach we’re not going home tonight, I promise you coach, we’re not going home tonight.”

How did you challenge your players before the NCISAA Tournament? “I told them no one has given out a trophy yet. We can go out and get it. When we had to play Trinity again, I told them they beat us three times already, but the only game that matters is this game.” 

Coach James Strong will be the first to tell you the 2019-20 season had its ups and downs. It was like a roller coaster ride, but one thing we have learned over the years, coach James Strong is underrated as a basketball coach, but more importantly he knows how to motivate young players. He has a gift and that gift was on full display during this NCISAA 1A championship run. You see, not many people believed this team could win, except one man and one coach and that was James Strong. He led, and his team followed and for years to come, he can tell any team, “It’s not where you start that counts, but how you finish.” Northwood Temple finished as NCISAA 1A state champs and no one will remember the early season loses or the 23-14 record.