Thursday, February 2, 2012

Washington County Aims to Preserve Perfect Record

Washington County's Carlos Hope talks like a coach who is fond of the people with whom he works.  He describes Golden Hawks 6'5" captain and leading scorer, senior Juwan Burden, as "the kind of kid who you would be proud to have as a son."  He gives credit for his team's phenomenal defensive performance this season (opponents have yet to record 50 points in a game against the Golden Hawks) to assistant coach, and "defensive coordinator," Tyrone Dean.  And he describes Burke County head coach Purvis Dukes, whom he will face Friday in Augusta Basketball Report's "Game of the Night," as "a kind of big brother," crediting much of what he knows about coaching to the experience he gained assisting Dukes at Burke County during the 2004-2005 season.

"I was with Purvis during his first season as the head coach, so we learned a lot together about what works and what doesn't from that experience," Hope explains.  That investment has paid off handsomely for the two friends as their teams have a combined winning percentage of 74% over the past five seasons.

And the former colleagues have learned to coexist in the same sub region, facing each other twice each season.  Dukes explains that these games "are always played the right way," and that "the most we talk about when it comes to other teams is which players started, nothing about strategy."

Nevertheless, Hope "hates playing against him (Dukes)," and Dukes is surely anxious as his Bears attempt to make a run at the second place position in Region 3A-AAA.

Though the specific defensive strategies that Hope and Dean employ have likely evolved over the past five seasons, the defensive focus that Hope has made "the foundation since day one," dating back to his time as South Aiken High School's head coach (before moving on to Washington County), has helped to produce many successful seasons in Sandersville.  Hope's 113-36 record, the five straight state tournament appearances, and the three elite eight finishes speak volumes for the strategy and the execution.  But no season during Hope's tenure has been as magical as the current one.  Tomorrow is the next opportunity for the Golden Hawks to extend the feeling that comes with a perfect record.

But in one sense, tomorrow's game between two sub region rivals, coached by two friends, will turn out well for all involved, no matter the outcome.  For the Burke County Bears and the Washington County Golden Hawks, led by two men who began learning together, will, as Dukes so elegantly expressed, "play the right way."

Watch highlights of the Washington County defense in action in the video below...

Augusta Basketball Report "Game of the Night:"
Burke County Bears (14-4, 4-4) at Washington County Golden Hawks (19-0, 8-0)

Key Details:
Where - Sandersville, GA

When - Friday, February 3; 8:30 P.M.

Why is it important?  Washington County looks to stay undefeated.  A Burke County win, combined with a Butler loss to Glenn Hills, would keep the Bears alive in the race for second place in Region 3A-AAA.

Players to watch - 6'5" Washington County Wing Juwan Burden, whom his coach describes as "Georgia's best kept secret," is an explosive athlete with a soft touch and the ability to create points for himself and for teammates off the dribble.  He also runs the floor well and is an effective rebounder on both ends of the court.

Washington County's freshman guard AJ Gray's "most impressive quality may be his basketball intelligence," according to Coach Hope.  Gray is a very good shooter.  He can create off the dribble, and he is active defensively.

The Augusta Basketball Report will get its first look at Burke County's 6'2" shooting guard Brandon Quarterman and the rest of the Bears Friday night.

Check the Augusta Basketball Report early Saturday morning for the story and the highlights from Friday's "Game of the Night" between the Bears and the Golden Hawks.

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