8 Mar 2015

jordan 5 North Carolina Boys' Basketball

By Michael Moon

Kinston Free Press

KINSTON The road to a state championship is paved with hard work, hours of practice, a lot more wins than losses and a little luck along the way.

Kinston’s road will take them on a 10,000 plus mile round trip journey with stops in Hawaii; Springfield, Mass.; Raleigh and Chapel Hill. The Vikings hope that lengthy road trip will lead to a second state championship in the last three years.

Kinston head coach Wells Gulledge knows a thing or two about what it takes to win consistently. His team is 2 0 this year after going 28 4 with a season ending loss to Northern Guilford in the East Regional Finals a year ago, a loss that was later turned into a win due to Northern Guilford having to forfeit its state title. The Vikings have played in the last three regional finals, winning a state championship in 2008 and finishing second jordan 5 to Concord in ’07.

Each year, the Vikings have played in a number of prestigious mid season tournaments. A year ago, Kinston won the Tournament of Champions in Peoria, Ill., and the year before, the Vikings played in the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla.

“These tournaments give our kids a taste of what big time basketball is all about,” Gulledge said. “Winning the Tournament of Champions in Peoria really prepared us for the run we made last year.”

This year, the Vikings will be looking to make a similar run jordan 7 and will take on a similar gauntlet of top talent in the nation and abroad.

Following a conference match up against Beddingfield Monday night in Kinston, the Vikings headed to the airport and sunny Hawaii for the Iolani Classic, a 16 team invitation only tournament sponsored by Nike. Once there, the Vikings will play four games in nine days, kicking off the tournament with a match up against a team from Beijing, China.

“It’s one of the top pre Christmas tournaments in the nation,” Gulledge said. “It’s very special. Even the state it’s being held in is special.”

The team will fly home on Christmas Eve and will have less than a week off before the GlaxoSmithKline kicks off in Raleigh at Broughton High Dec. 28 30. Three days later, on Jan. 2, Kinston will host county rival North Lenoir, and a week after that will play Greensboro Dudley at the Dean Smith Center at UNC Chapel Hill on national television.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Kinston will fly to Springfield, Mass., for a game against a team from Washington state.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for many of these kids to visit some shrines of American history,” Gulledge said, noting that the team would get a chance to visit such landmarks as the USS Arizona while in Hawaii. “Pearl Harbor is in their history books, but this is a chance for them to go, to touch it, smell it and taste what it’s all about.”

A big part of the team’s success the past three years, and a big reason the team has the opportunity to play in such prestigious tournaments, is undeniably the presence of senior Reggie Bullock, a four year starter for the Vikings who signed a national letter of intent to play at UNC in the fall.

“Reggie is a marquee guy, but this team is not just a marquee guy,” Gulledge said. “He has a great supporting cast as well.”

Among those supporting cast members are seniors Dory Hines, Dallas Best and Josh Benoit, guys who have played their share of big games for the Vikings in the past few years.

And no one on the team seems satisfied just to be playing the best talent in the country.

“We’re going out to have a good time,” Bullock said. “It’s somewhere we’ve never been, but we’re going to go there to win games and put our team and our town on the map.”

Gulledge said the team has had lofty expectations all year. The coach said he divides the season into four quarters much like a basketball game. The first quarter is the non conference schedule and the rivalry games, followed by the conference schedule, then the state tournament and finally if all goes as planned a state championship.

“If you’re not talking about it in practice daily and weekly, about being in a state championship, you’ll probably never reach that goal,” Gulledge said.

The Kinston girls, meanwhile, have plans of their own. After a number of disappointing finishes in recent years, head coach Ira Jones believes his team has the right recipe to make a run this season.

Among the Vikings’ chief goals? A top three finish in the Eastern Plains 2A Conference (and the automatic playoff berth that accompanies it).

Though the Vikings were 3 2 and 0 1 in conference play heading into a Monday night match up against perennial powerhouse Wilson Beddingfield, Jones jordan 6 said the team’s goals are attainable as long as the girls can improve their rebounding and learn to take care of the ball better.

Among the top returning players for the Vikings are senior Cookie Wingfield and sophomore Caroline Debruhl.

“It’s a big help for us as a team to have the veterans out there,” Jones said. “It cuts down on the time we have to spend teaching. Even though Caroline is only a sophomore, we still consider her a veteran.”

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