SNELLVILLE - When Emmett Rouse took over the South Gwinnett boys basketball program in 2007 he preached two things - family and defense.
It took some time for the veteran coach to instill the values, but in his second year at the Snellville school he has started to see some change.
Rouse has the Comets off to their best start since the 2004-05 season when South played for the state championship with standouts Louis Williams and Mike Mercer.
"The only thing we're proud of is we're playing more team ball and not individual," Rouse said. "When you got six players in double figures, you can't ask for much better."
South Gwinnett doesn't have a dominant scorer, but rather a handful of players that can contribute every night.
"We don't want it to be a one man show," Rouse said. "We want it to be where everybody is touching the ball, everybody passing, everybody rebounding, everybody playing really good defense."
Adonis Harris leads the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game and 10.9 rebounds. Mario Vasser averages 15.1 points, Javonte Maynor 12.7, Xavier Chargois 10.5 and Reggie Brice is also a scoring threat. Kevon Jenkins rotates with Vasser and Maynor and the reserve is averaging 12.2 points.
"I think the reason we are so successful this year is because we got five or six players in double figures," Rouse said. "That's what I've been preaching since I got here. If we all play team ball, there's no way we can be stopped."
The concept seems to be working. South Gwinnett (14-4, 8-1) has matched its win total from last year already this season. The Comets began the season 0-2 with losses to state ranked Richmond Academy and Josey.
South went on a seven-game winning streak before falling to Orangeburg-Wilkinson, S.C., in a holiday tournament. The Comets started another seven-game winning streak only to see it snapped Tuesday by Dacula, the first Region 8-AAAAA loss of the season.
The one common theme in both losses was that South gave up 70 points. A stat Rouse does not like.
"I'm thinking defense first, then offense," Rouse said. "If we play good defense, offense will come. You get enough stops and rebounds you'll be ale to go down and score."
South will try to start another winning streak Friday when it hosts Meadowcreek. The playoffs are a month away, but Friday's game is easily the biggest for South in recent years.
Both teams are tied for first place in Region 8 and the winner will have the inside track for the regular season region title.
"It's a big game. Nothing else needs to be said. It's a big game," Rouse said. "I know Coach (Billy) Davis is going to have them ready. I know they haven't lost to anybody but us and that's going to be motivation."
Maybe the only thing that can slow down the Comets is themselves, or at least their injuries. Vasser and Jenkins have been bothered by ankle sprains, while Brice and Andre Pierce are recovering from arm injuries.
Rouse has had a lot of success as a high school basketball coach. He spent 12 years at Josey High School in Augusta where he led the Eagles to a state final, three Final Fours and 12 state playoff appearances. His teams routinely featured several players in double figures, just like this year's South squad.
"I see a lot of similarities," Rouse said. "Like I said the one thing I've been preaching since I got here is team. All the games we've been winning has been because if you stop Mario, Kevon is killing you. You try to stop Kevon then Javonte is killing you. You try to stop the outside, then we go inside. And that's the one thing I see similarities with."