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Trojans' self-defense scrambles Waccamaw race


Saadiq Johnson (24) and the West Brunswick guards have turned up the defensive intensity as the Trojans have run to the top of the Waccamaw Conference title chase. (Photo by Staff photo by PAUL STEPHEN)


In late December, the West Brunswick boys basketball team was sitting on a losing record and a porous defense. Now, the Trojans have ridden a re-energized defense to the top of the Waccamaw Conference.

Early in the season, coach Eric Davis was less than happy with his team. Guards were getting beat off the dribble, forwards had to rotate out of position. The result were easy buckets for opponents and poor defensive rebounding.

"I felt like early in the year we were good or decent defensively at home," Davis said. "But we would go on the road and not be very good defensively."

‘Decent at home' wasn't good enough, and losing volunteer assistant coach Ray Wilson added an emotional blow as well.

Wilson, a retired 25-year coaching veteran in New Jersey high schools and Rider College, joined the West Brunswick staff as a volunteer and instilled a pack-line defense.

"I've always been a defensive-minded coach," Davis said. "And I kind of turned the defense over to him with the vocabulary we used. We've taken on his philosophy."

That philosophy differs from the rest of the league – most teams in the Waccamaw like to run and gun, play pressure defense and gamble for steals to create transition opportunities. West Brunswick prefers to stay in defensive position, protect the paint and force opponents into contested jump shots.

"A perfect game for us would be for a team to shoot 30 contested threes," Davis said.

Wilson's methods were just starting to take effect when health problems forced him to leave the team after the first two weeks of the season. Wilson died Jan. 19. The entire West Brunswick team attended the funeral.

"When he did pass it was a surprise to all of us," Davis said. "All year when we gear up in the huddle, we say, ‘1-2-3 Wilson' for him."

As Wilson's health declined, West Brunswick went back to the defense he instilled. During a 17-day stretch with just one game, the Trojans did nothing but defensive drills in practice.

"I felt like we were so bad defensively compared to where we've been the last two years, that it gave us an opportunity to really regroup," Davis said. "We had a lot of young guards coming off our JV team that didn't fully understand what we were trying to do."

If the guards didn't before, they do now. In nine games in 2012, West Brunswick surrendered 63.9 points per game. In seven games in January and February, the Trojans are allowing only 56.9 points per game.

West Brunswick has won three straight games to vault to a three-way tie for first place in the league, beating South Brunswick, North Brunswick and West Bladen.

"North was our first away game since we put in that emphasis," Davis said. "We were so good defensively that it gave us an opportunity to win on the road."

For Davis and West Brunswick, it's a welcome turnaround.



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