Three years ago, Daryl Jarvis was a new head coach trying to get his young C.A. Johnson squad used to being winners.
This week, the Hornets, led by eight seniors, are preparing for the Class A state championship game. C.A. Johnson will face Whale Branch, a 2013 state runner-up, on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.
“Being able to win the championship together in our senior year would be a dream come true for all of us,” All-State forward Peter Goodman said. “We’ve been here together since Day 1, in middle school, learning the fundamentals of the game together.
“It’s like a neighborhood thing, and we look at each other as blood brothers, all of us,” he said.
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Though Goodman, who leads the team with 18.7 points per game, and Mike Knox tend to get most of the attention, both say their accomplishments would not be possible without the bond they share with their fellow seniors.
Bre’Ondre Johnson, Nate Nelson, Robert Riley, William Tobe, Reginald Romeo and Michael Millhouse all have played crucial roles in the Hornets’ run to the state championship, Jarvis said.
Knox called Nelson and Johnson “the best defensive guards in the state.”
“Bre’Ondre Johnson is a very good ball handler and coach on the floor. Nate Nelson is another general on the floor who is an extension of the coaching staff,” Jarvis said.
“I think they bring so much to the table, so much intensity but then laughter, too,” Knox said. “They loosen us up, and we need that, you know, because we can be tense.”
Robert Riley’s shooting also has been key.
“If we needed eight 3s, Rob will hit all eight of them,” Knox said. Riley averages 7.2 points per game, making 21 3-pointers.
And 6-foot-2 center William Tobe has been a difference-maker for the Hornets on more than one occasion.
“If we didn’t have Tobe in the post, I don’t think we would have won a lot of the games we won,” Goodman said of Tobe, who gives the Hornets 9.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
“He’s our most consistent player and one of the better passers on the team,” Jarvis said. “We ask for a lot from him and he delivers.”
The net effect of all their efforts is 67 points per game, a 17-9 record, a Region 3-A title, and a shot at the program’s first state title since 1989.
And that is something the Hornets have been buzzing about for a long time.
“I don’t think there’s one conversation when it doesn’t come up, that we should be state champions,” Knox said.