With the arrival of November comes the start of high school basketball. Each team’s record is reset to no wins, no losses. Every team gets a chance to improve upon their results from last season.
Justin Bettendorf, head coach of the Roxboro Community School Bulldogs’ men’s basketball team, is coming off a state quarterfinal appearance. He and his team want to do that again, except this time, they want to go further and win it all.
Tonight, Bettendorf and the Bulldogs begin their quest for a state championship as they take on the Eno River Academy Bobcats, who make the short trip up from Hillsborough, at 7:30 p.m. in the RCS gym.
Last year, the junior varsity squad matched up with the Bobcats, beating them in a low-scoring, 35-31 contest. The varsity squad did not play against the Bobcats, but played against Research Triangle, a team from the Bobcats’ Central TarHeel 1A conference.
“I try and not broadcast this to our players, and they already know it and think about it,” Bettendorf said. “Eno River played our JV team last year, and our JV was able to hang with them. I’m hoping that both ways. Eno River’s a young team. This is their first year with a varsity roster. Not trying to schedule cupcakes because we can roll out here, and anybody can beat anybody, any given day. At the same time, we’re hoping it’s a good game to see where we are at this point, even though it’s early in the season.”
Going into the Bulldogs’ first game of the season, Bettendorf is confident in what his team will be able to do. There were three things, however, that Bettendorf emphasized the Bulldogs need to do in order to come away with the victory.
“Make sure we execute the threes – energy, enthusiasm, and effort, which sort of piggybacks on what we say before every game, which is the Carolina thing: play hard, play smart, and play to have fun out there. Those are the main things. Again, if we can play hard, play smart, play as a team, and have fun, we will be successful,” Bettendorf said.
At practice on Monday, the Bulldogs made a point of working on “the threes.” Before the Bulldogs went into drills, they were all smiles. Bulldogs players were running around the gym. Players were hustling and encouraging each other to finish strong. They seemed to enjoy being around each other, which is key for on-court chemistry once the season starts.
“That played a huge part in our success last year,” said Bettendorf. “These guys, all these seniors we’ve got have been together since sixth grade, if not before that. They’re definitely a tight-knit group. A lot of these guys have done summer stuff with us, played together for years. Some of them play other sports together. A lot of them are friends outside sports. As close as these guys are, the chemistry is definitely a positive.”
The Bulldogs have a lot of returning players, and Bettendorf knows them like the back of his hand. No matter how familiar a coach is with their team, however, there is always a new outlook for each season. For a team with a lot of strengths like the Bulldogs, Bettendorf noted one thing in particular that he is looking for from his Bulldogs in Wednesday’s game.
“Our top strength would be our resiliency. We had a bad habit last year of sometimes digging ourselves in a hole. In the regular season, we were able to come back from it. Luckily, in playoffs, if we dug ourselves in a hole or had a letdown, we were able to overcome it up until the last game. I would definitely say our resiliency is over-the-top.”