Mar 4, 2014
One would be challenged to find a boys basketball program with more success in the last decade than Kinston High School.
Kinston has won two straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 2-A state championships, and the Vikings have been a favorite in the 2-A ranks all season.
Perry Tyndall, the second-year head coach at Kinston, accepts the outside expectations that comes with being Kinston. But he says the name on the jersey doesn't guarantee a win, and if the Vikings are going to three-peat this season, they'll have to get through a tough Eastern Regional.
"I think sometimes there are high expectations, but getting back here every year is an accomplishment," Tyndall said on Monday afternoon. "Playing in regionals brings excitement to our community. The kids are excited because they get to create their own identity, and even though we have had a lot of success in years past, we still want our kids to enjoy the moment."
Kinston, which has put together a 23-4 campaign so far this season, will face a tough Trinity team in the Eastern Regional semifinals on Tuesday night in Fayetteville.
"They've got an unbelievable coach in Coach (Tim) Kelly. He got his 500th win this year, and that says enough as it is," said Tyndall. "They've got balance. They've got kids that can play. They've got kids that can shoot it from all over the court, and they're quick, they're fundamental."
Tyndall said Trinity will be a tough out for the Vikings, and he expects a close basketball game on Tuesday.
"They run their stuff well and it's going to be a tough test for us," he said.
Kinston has been tested before though. In the early part of the season, Kinston posted wins over teams like Mount Tabor and Hunt, both of which had 20-win seasons. In fact, Hunt is also participating in the Eastern Regional this week.
In December, Kinston made a run to the championship game in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational with wins over Broughton and Wheeler (Ga.). The Vikings lost to Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) in the championship game, a team that went on to win their respective state championship in Florida.
Kinston was perfect in the conference season, winning the conference title outright with a 10-0 league record.
In the first two rounds of the state playoffs, the Vikings beat Eastern Randolph 86-48, then Red Springs 79-56. The third round brought a tough road game at Fairmont.
"We knew it was going to be a really tough place to play and they're a solid team. We saw them in the regional finals last year," Tyndall said of Fairmont.
Behind a 23-point performance by Darnell Dunn, Kinston advanced past Fairmont 59-46. The Vikings trailed after the first quarter, and the game was tied at halftime.
"They're super balanced, they play a lot of kids, and the atmosphere was pretty exciting," said Tyndall. "You can't ask for a better high school atmosphere to play in. We knew it was going to be a tough test for us and our guys responded. We took a good hit early and we responded well."
Against Fairmont, Kinston also got 12 points from Andrew Lopez and 11 points from Brandon Ingram – two players who will need to step up this week for the Vikings to win.
Ingram is a player who is being recruiting by high major programs across the country, including a number of ACC schools. But Tyndall says that attention doesn't take away from his ability to help his team win.
"Sometimes you have an elite player and that elite player demands a certain amount of shot attempts , and sometimes that happens outside the system, but Brandon's just a true team player," said Tyndall. "He knows what he needs to do. If he's getting face-guarded, he knows how to get his teammates involved. He just does anything we ask him to do, and every thing he does he does pretty well."
Lopez has the ability to score a lot of points as well, especially from behind the arc.
"Andrew's played the one for us this year and he has played off the ball. He's done a great job taking on those two roles. He can shoot it really well and that's good to have," Tyndall said. "Having Brandon and Andrew with their capabilities, it really helps us out a lot."
If Kinston is going to beat this one-loss Trinity team, Tyndall says the Vikings have to compete and control Trinity's guards.
"They do a really good job of getting to the cup, but we've got to be aware of their shooting ability too because they really do shoot it well," he said. "We're just going to have to contain them and play smart basketball."
And Tyndall believes if Kinston plays its best basketball, a three-peat is possible.
"I believe in our guys, it's tough though. This time of year you've got to have some breaks, you can't have a bad night. I'm very much aware of that and I think our kids understand that you've got to come to play," said Tyndall. "I love our guys, I love the way we are playing right now, and we're looking forward to it."
Kinston and Trinity are scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m. at the Crown Arena on Tuesday. The winner will face the winner of Northside-Jacksonville and Southwest Onslow in the regional final on Saturday.
Follow Nick Stevens on Twitter @NickStevensHSOT
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