ROCKY MOUNT —
BETHEL – First-year head coach Anthony Burns believes his team has lost faith in themselves and aren't hungry enough to win anymore. It showed during the second half Tuesday night during Eastern Plains Conference action against the North Pitt Panthers. The SouthWest Edgecombe Cougars were up by one at halftime, but when they came out in the second half they didn't even look nor play like the same team. They were defeated 61-45.
The Cougars fall to 10-8 overall and are 2-7 in conference play.
"They aren't hungry to want to win anymore," Burns said. "They have lost focus and it is frustrating to watch it."
Burns was beside himself after the loss, because he doesn't understand why his team has fallen off of the map. He couldn't put his finger on just one thing, but says he feels like the length of the season has finally caught up with them. The Cougars began the season like a ball of fire and were putting teams away early on, but as of late, they can't find a way to score and are turning the ball over with careless mistakes that they didn't make before.
"These are high school kids and we can't forget that," Burns said. "There are a lot of factors that are involved and I wish I knew what it was right now, but I don't. I just don't know how to get them back hungry to win. It is on them now."
One of the negative key factors for the Cougars was the lack of scoring from their two senior leaders, Anthony Coley and Javine Hinton. Coley scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds and the Panthers held Hinton to just four points. Coley had to sit a portion of the second quarter, because of foul trouble.
Burns said they can't win if they don't play team chemistry ball. The Cougars committed 17 turnovers and that led to 14 points for the Panthers. The Cougars dominated the first half forcing the Panthers to commit 13 turnovers which led to 11 points for the Cougars which was just four shy of what they scored in the second half, 15.
Burns wasn't pleased with his teams defensive performance in the second half and was just as unhappy about them going 4-10 from the free throw line and missing 10 lay-ups.
"When you miss that many free throws and lay-ups something is wrong," Burns said. "It is tough on us when we miss easy chances of scoring."
The Cougars are still in the hunt for an automatic bid for the playoffs, but to do that they will have to win out the remainder of the season and make sure they don't fall anymore during the regular season.
Burns said the way things have been going lately, he is unsure if his team can win the next three games and make a run in the conference tournament.
"We have to get the passion back," Burns said. "We have to play like we did early on in the season when we were hungry and wanted to win."
Burns said it is only so much he can do to get them to regroup. He said it lies on their shoulders if they want to win.
Lady Panthers 60
Lady Cougars 27
The Lady Cougars just can't find a way to win. They continue to turn the ball over and are still having trouble bringing the ball up court against a full court press. The Cougars turned the ball over 30 times Tuesday night against the Lady Panthers which led to 30 points for them. The Lady Panthers went on to defeat the Lady Cougars 60-27.
Dawson Gould led the Lady Cougars with nine points. Montana York chipped in six and Keychonia WIlliams added seven.
The Lady Cougars opened the game in terrible fashion. They turned the ball over 10 times during their first 11 possession and the only points they scored during the first five minutes of the game was on a York three-pointer. Both teams struggled early on and the Lady Panthers had just a 16-10 lead after one.
The Lady Panthers turned up the pressure in the second quarter and began to trap the Lady Cougars at mid-court and forced 12 turnovers with that defense.
The Lady Panthers poured it on from then on out and held the Lady Cougars to just five points in the second frame.
Head coach Sandra Langley said it is hard to watch her team continue to struggle every game with ball handling skills and said they have struggled all year with that part of the game and breaking the press.
The Cougars travel to Greene Central tonight.
The Cougars defense forced 22 Lady Panther turnovers, but they couldn't capitalize in transition and only scored 11 points of of the turnovers.