Greenbrier High School has never been known as a prep powerhouse in basketball.
Couple this with the fact that the Wolfpack graduated three of last year's starters, and a fourth starter, Philip Tapley, decided to skip basketball season to concentrate on baseball.
All of this led many observers - including myself - to assume that Greenbrier would struggle during the 2001-02 court campaign.
Well, the Pack will have a tougher time in their upcoming Region 3-AAAA games, but thanks to two key ingredients, the team earned some bragging rights by taking the title last weekend at the Columbia County Christmas Tournament.
The ingredients which lifted the Pack to the top at the Lakeside High School gymnasium were good point-guard play and solid coaching.
Each March, when the NCAA tournament rolls around, every basketball analyst from Dick Vitale to Clark Kellogg will talk about how important point-guard play is. Success hinges on that position.
Greenbrier got an early Christmas present when junior transfer student Eric Marshall became eligible just in time for the Christmas tournament.
Marshall, a 6 feet 2 inch guard, moved to Augusta in the summer but couldn't play until he and his family were actually living in the Greenbrier school district.
The newcomer made a smashing debut, scoring 18 points in the tournament opener to help the Pack knock off defending champion Evans by a score of 56-52.
Thanks in part to Marshall's ability to handle the Knights' pressure defense, Greenbrier built a 41-27 lead through three quarters. The Pack then survived a late rally by Evans to advance to the title game against Lakeside.
Marshall continued his stellar play in the finals by pouring in 21 points while pacing the Pack to a 45-37 victory. Marshall not only scored, he combined with teammate Leon Borders to slow down Lakeside threat Matt Scott.
Scott, the Panthers' sophomore sharpshooter, had ripped Harlem for 33 points in first-round action but managed only 11 against Greenbrier.
Marshall's impact was obvious: Greenbrier entered the Columbia County Christmas Tournament with a 1-6 record, but with Marshall on the court, the Pack picked up two wins and a trophy.
Some of the credit, however, should go to Greenbrier coach Danny Black, who returned to the sideline this season after a one-year hiatus.
While coaching the Evans Knights during the 1980s and '90s, Black earned a reputation as a coach who always inspired his students to play hard. Thanks to Black's hard-nosed approach, each year the Knights would win a few games against squads which possessed superior talent.
But that was then and this is now - some speculated that Black was a throwback, and some said his old-school methods wouldn't work with today's athletes.
What the critics didn't realize is the game of basketball hasn't really changed, and Black knows how to get the most out of the talent he's got on the court.
Greenbrier might not be a 15 or 20-win team, maybe not even a playoff team, but the Wolfpack is dangerous with Black at the helm. On any given night, he can get his team playing good enough defense to knock off any opponent in the area.
Personally, I'm glad the veteran coach is back with the Pack, and I have a message for the Greenbrier players: Be thankful!
You might hate all the running you have to do, and sometimes it's no fun playing defense, but trust me - you will appreciate your coach if you continue to play in college, because you will be a step ahead of most players defensively.
Also, with Black's input, you can compete with anyone, and on a given night, you can beat the best.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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