KENLY — The expectations of Neuse Charter boys’ basketball coach Jimmie Sanders and North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson are the same for each of their teams: to get better every day.
As the Cougars and Panthers opened up the season Tuesday night identifying the importance of defining roles early in the year as being crucial to getting better, Neuse Charter opened up play with an impressive 63-44 road victory.
Neuse Charter, in its first year as a member of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, looked to have many of the key ingredients necessary for a successful inaugural campaign in the NCHSAA and the Carolina 1A Conference.
Center Joe Bell had 10 points and eight rebounds; forwards Tre’Shon Charles and Devante Stevens helped the cause with nine and eight points, respectively, and Jarrod Sealey came off the bench with seven points.
“We’ve got speed and we’ve got some pretty good size for a high school team,” said Neuse Charter coach Jimmie Sanders. “We’ve also got some pretty good shooters.”
But most importantly, the Cougars have a true, albeit young point guard to lead the way this season as the coach’s son, Jimmie Sanders III, led the visitors with 22 points.
Neuse Charter, coming off a solid 12-11 record last season before joining the NCHSAA, looks to continue to build onto the program.
“Our expectations are that we are going to compete,” said Jimmie Sanders. “We know it’s going to be a tough challenge joining the NCHSAA and the Carolina 1A is going to have some tough teams.
“Our approach is to take one game at a time and to get better every day.”
Senior Trey Daniels led North Johnston in the season opener with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Caleb Byrd came in off the bench to supply the Panthers with six points and three assists.
Daniels, along with fellow four-year varsity player Tanner Snipes, will lead North Johnston into the athletic Eastern Plains 2A Conference this season.
For the Panthers, chemistry will be key as they mix in with the front court combination of Daniels and Snipes a less experienced group of players in the back court.
Demarcus Ellis, Ben Howell, Bailey Lail and Montie Walker all figure to play key roles for a Panthers squad intent on making the state playoffs.
“We’ve got some good players and we really don’t have any stars,” North Johnston coach Derrick Johnson said. “We’ve just got to find the right combination and get the roles together.”
As was on display in the Panthers’ contest with the Cougars, there will be a focus on rebounding the basketball and limiting turnovers as North Johnston was out-rebounded 31-16 and committed 20 turnovers.
“We can have a decent season,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to always make the state playoffs and we’ve got some good talent and good guys who work hard.”