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January 20, 2004 > Newark Cougars: High School Basketball at It's Best

Newark Cougars: High School Basketball at It's Best

by Nick Butterfield

It is a chilly midweek night, but as the doors to the gymnasium swing open, the wintry conditions melt. Energy flows through the gym, creating an electric and contagious atmosphere. The packed crowd watches every play, every move with the curiosity. The crowd is in awe. Such athleticism is not normally seen at a high school basketball game. The term "Good" is an understatement. This team is "incredible."

As the game continues, the talent of the Newark Memorial High boy's varsity team becomes more and more apparent. Point guard Trae Clark has complete command of the basketball court. He is constantly active and is always ready to help a teammate out. Clark's offensive talent, solid defense, and leadership skills are rare qualities for a junior in high school to possess. Inside the paint, the dominating presence of Cal-bound 6'10" Devon Hardin wears down the opposing team. The senior is rebounding, blocking shots, and playing aggressively. Clark and Hardin are accompanied by Kyle Spain, a junior who has developed into one of the best offensive players in the league. These three players are supported by the defensive stone wall, Korey Hutchison and a deep, talented bench. When running smoothly, the Newark Memorial Cougars are an unstoppable force.

A simple principle underlies the outstanding talent of the Cougars. Hard Work. The team is overflowing with great talent. They realize this, but refuse to be content with it. If the team did not play hard, it would remain competitive, but the cougars do not want to be competitive. The cougars want to dictate the game. They have the desire to win every time they play, and they want to be the best team on the court. The cougars have focused on correcting errors, and the goal is to work on them until they are nonexistent.

This year's cougars hope to advance deep into the playoffs, but as coach of the team, Craig Ashmore does not like to look ahead. "I coach each game as it comes." Ashmore realizes that there is much room for improvement. "We are turning the ball over way too much" he points out. He knows that his team is special, but he will not become complacent regarding the success of his team. In addition to cutting down on turnovers, Ashmore's aim is to become a stronger defensive team. As one of the captains of the team, Trae Clark knows this "We really need to pick it up on defense.". Working hard day in and day out brings the players and their coach together. Kyle Spain says "The thing I like most about our coach is that he doesn't accept laziness. He motivates us, and he creates unity in our team. We are a family"

As the final buzzer rings, the result on the score board reveals Newark's complete dominance. It is another 25 point blowout for a team that maintains a high level of play through good coaching and hard work. As the team files out, one can't help but wish good luck to the Newark Memorial Cougars as they continue to play incredible basketball, and awe crowds in the process.

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