The road navy blue jerseys with green trim have been very good to Leesville Road’s boys basketball team. In five rounds of the playoffs, the Pride has been the lower seed and worn the away jerseys. Leesville has five single-digit wins to show for it.
Entering Saturday’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state championship at Reynolds Coliseum against Southwest Guilford (27-3), Leesville (22-9) appears to be the underdog again.
But the Pride was always more talented than its seeding, which was low after playing in arguably the state’s toughest 4A conference and taking on some of the best teams in the area.
But explaining how the Pride got here has to start off the court. A hallmark of coach Russ Frazier’s teams – he took two Northwood squads to 2A basketball title games – is the camaraderie.
Frazier often tells his players that they’re not playing for wins and losses, but “one more day” together.
“We were trying to get another day each time,” said Frazier at Monday’s championship press conference. “A lot of people in here are excited about the game, and want to worry about the game. Heck, we’re excited about practice today.”
His players have bought in over time.
“Each year we’ve just kind of gotten closer together with the same mindset,” senior Alex Hunter said. “As we’ve grown, we’ve kind of developed the same mindset and goal and vision of what we wanted the basketball program to do.
Frazier and the Leesville Road community have been a perfect match since coming to the school five seasons ago. He grew up in Roanoke Rapids, but finds similarities with Leesville Road. His mantra has taken root.
“Theses kids here at Leesville, they’re a tight-knit group of kids, and that’s what I like about them. Leesville feels like a small town. It’s in the middle of Raleigh, but it feels like a small community, and we have a lot of great support,” Frazier said. “It reminds me of home a lot. It’s the first place I’ve actually called home since I left Roanoke Rapids.”
With every teammate buying in, it hasn’t mattered who was the hero in whatever round.
In some rounds, it was Hunter, a Furman recruit, who led the way with sophomore Jalen Benjamin. If one of of them had a bad game, Jonathan Mebane stepped up.
Starters D.J. Horne and R.J. Wilson have provided a pick-me-up as well, and there’s rarely any drop-off when Grayson Stickney and Wes Zemonek check in off the bench.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but at the end, we’re together, and we feel like we can do this now,” Benjamin said.
Hopefully no one boxed up Leesville Road’s home white jerseys, which haven’t been worn since the semifinals of the Cap-8 Conference tournament on Feb. 16.
They too have one more day.