Roxboro Community School’s athletic program sent off its 16 seniors on a high note, as the men’s basketball team beat Triangle Math and Science Academy 70-60 in front of a packed gymnasium.
“I’m just going to miss being around them every day,” said RCS assistant coach Earl Bailey, who led the Bulldogs (13-11, 9-6) while head coach Justin Bettendorf is out with the flu. “I’ve adopted all of them, really, I’ve known them all since they’ve been in the world. I’ve been coaching them since sixth grade.”
In a third quarter filled with technical fouls, Jalen Bailey hit two free throws only 1:54 into the quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 32-31 lead they never relinquished.
“It was a bunch of things,” Earl Bailey said of the technical. “The referee warned the other coach if he was going to talk again, he was going to get a technical. The kids on the court were talking, and the referee continued to warn coach. They didn’t stop, so techs ensued.” Nasir Stokes received a technical after a made basket, and TMSA coach Brandon Moore received one for repeated chatter.
RCS escaped the Tigers (6-14, 5-11) with a 23-15 fourth quarter. The Bulldogs saw Nasir Stokes (seven), Bryson Pleasant (seven), JR Paylor (five), Jalen Bailey (three), and Mack Warren (one) score in the final frame, with the latter four combining to hit eight free throws to ice the game.
“I kept stressing to them during the timeouts, “It needs to be us, and not me,” said Bailey. “Sometimes we get into the fact that we want to take it over ourselves, even though we have everybody in each position that is capable of doing that.”
Defense, an area RCS struggled in during Tuesday’s loss to Voyager, was there on Thursday night when the Bulldogs needed it the most.
“Defense in transition finally turned the game around,” Earl Bailey said. “That’s what got us back in it. We were scrambling, making them uncomfortable.”
RCS scored 70 points for the seventh time in eight games. They topped the 20-point mark in a quarter twice on Thursday night (20 in the second, 23 in the fourth).
“We went into a box set to make it so they’re (TMSA) always moving and scrambling,” said Earl Bailey. “We had them uncomfortable, and we ran it against Voyager, but got away from it in that game. The more we keep doing it, the more comfortable they’ll be with it.”
RCS took smart shots in the second half, leading them to 40 points in the final 16 minutes.
“If we find a mismatch, or somebody’s being lazy with playing defense, there’s no need to have a one-shot mind,” said Earl Bailey. “There’s no shot clock in high school – move the ball, find a good shot, and then score it. That’s plain simple. We need to get the shot that we like, especially when we’re not forced to take a bad shot. We can get anything we want.”
Each starter for RCS scored in Thursday night’s contest, led by Stokes’ 20. Paylor registered 16, Bailey recorded 13, Pleasant dropped 12, and Warren scored four. Jacob Thadeio contributed five off the bench.
Before the game, the Bulldogs honored their large senior class, consisting of six cheerleaders and 10 men’s basketball players.
RCS honored cheerleaders Anniston Stovall, Cheyenne Johnson, Alexis Vernon, Kyleigh Burton, Grey Carver and Ashlyne Rouse.
The Bulldogs honored basketball players Luke Allen, Jalen Bailey, Chris Johnson, William Leonard, Paylor, Pleasant, Jaylen Pointer, Stokes, Thadeio, and Warren. Each senior received gifts from teammates and posed for pictures with their families.