Dukes look to reach new heights

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, December 6, 2018

When a program rises to heights it has not reached in nearly three decades, what it does next is accompanied by great expectations.

Last season, Cumberland County High School’s varsity boys basketball team won a regional championship for the first time in 27 years. The Dukes finished with an overall record of 15-9, falling in the Virginia High School League Class 1 state quarterfinals.

Cumberland has lost some key players from that team, but it returns a lot of talent as well.

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Dukes Head Coach Tyrone Mosby, the 2017-18 Region 1B Coach of the Year, said, “I would say there’s definitely pressure on both the kids and myself — a little pressure on me to get them at the level that we were at last year and pressure on them as far as playing at that level that the seniors played at … last year.”

One of those seniors last season was forward Darius Kyle, who was named regional Player of the Year.

“Darius gave us a lot last year, inside (and) out, and it’s going to be hard to replace that, so I’m definitely trying to move some kids around and seeing what kids can do what to at least play at that level, if it may be more than one kid,” Mosby said.

Another key Dukes player to depart due to graduation is JaQuan Brown.

This year, Cumberland’s roster is populated with eight seniors, five juniors and one sophomore.

“My expectations are always high coming into the season,” Mosby said. “Since we didn’t win the district last year and haven’t won the district in I don’t know how long, I would definitely say one of our goals is to win the district and then kind of let everything else play itself out as far as our seeding in the regionals and we take care of business in the regionals and our seeding in the state. So if we could definitely get that district championship under our belt, that’d be a good start.”

The first step of the Dukes’ 2018-19 journey Tuesday was an epic one as they defeated rival and host Prince Edward County High School 73-70 in double overtime.

Alluding to the rivalry between the teams, Mosby said, “It normally comes down to whoever wants it the most and who can make free throws down the stretch.”

Cumberland senior guard Mark Patterson Jr. showed significant leadership Tuesday, leading his team with 34 points.

“I’m looking for big things out of him,” Mosby said Wednesday, referring to the returning Patterson. “… He made some big free throws (last night) also. He should be in the mix for Player of the Year.”

Serving as the primary ball handler for the Dukes this year will be senior point guard Noah Bland, who is a returner.

Cumberland hopes to have its formidable inside presence back soon in the form of 6-foot-7-inch center Christian Jackson, who was a breakout performer last season.

“Hopefully, if we can get Chris Jackson back by the end of the month, we’re definitely expecting big things out of him,” Mosby said. “He’s still doing therapy from his surgery on his meniscus.”

Another Dukes player to watch will be junior forward Kameryn Woodson, who scored 14 points Tuesday.

Cumberland (1-0) hosts Amelia County High School on Friday at 7 p.m.