The Roxboro Community School Bulldogs had a packed gymnasium on Friday evening, as both the men’s and women’s varsity basketball teams had home games for the second time in three nights. Both Bulldogs teams were looking to continue their momentum from their victories on Wednesday night.
The men’s team beat the North Carolina School of Science and Math, 69-61. This was a game in which the Bulldogs were tied with the Unicorns after three quarters and down early in the fourth quarter. After the Unicorns gained early momentum out of the break, the Bulldogs came back with a four-point spurt, which caused the Unicorns to call a timeout. After this timeout, the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run, which put them up for good.
“This was our key moment in the game,” Coach Justin Bettendorf said. “NCSSM was up four or six, and the referee looked at me, expecting a timeout. I told the guys “You can figure it out. You’re a smart team.” I like to embrace that Roy Williams style of coaching – keep on playing and figure it out yourself.”
Bettendorf liked how his team played, but it was far from rainbows and butterflies.
“We did not adjust well at first,” said Bettendorf, referencing the 64 total fouls called in the game. “We had four guys with four fouls in the fourth quarter, and we obviously didn’t want them fouling out, so they had to change their game. When NCSSM would drive down the lane or spot up on the perimeter, we couldn’t be as physical. We couldn’t play as aggressively, which is our bread and butter.”
The Bulldogs made those necessary adjustments, and Bettendorf noted three Bulldogs in particular who shined to help snag the hard-fought victory.
“JR Paylor, one of our forwards, adjusted well. Nazir Stokes and Jalen Bailey both finished with four fouls. They dialed back their aggressiveness, which was a big reason they were able to finish the game. We kept running a three-quarter court press, and played better defensively. We played off our defensive stops, and were able to take the lead back.”
Bryson Pleasant, who did not play on Wednesday due to an injury, was a presence Friday night, especially late in the fourth quarter.
“Bryson Pleasant got two fouls quickly,” said Bettendorf. “We put him back in near the end of the first half. He picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter, forcing him to play with four fouls in the fourth quarter. A guy would miss their shot, and Pleasant was right there to clean it up.” In his first game back, Pleasant finished the night with six points.
Bettendorf liked how his team finished the game.
“It’s good to have a test early on in the season to see where you are. NCSSM played physical and got us out of our game, forcing us to make those necessary adjustments, which we did very well. We were resilient when faced with adversity late in the game. I expect us to continue being resilient, just as we were in Friday’s game, throughout the upcoming season.”
The Rockets scored 27 points in the fourth quarter, their highest-scoring quarter of the game. Senior guard Nasir Stokes led the way with 25 points, the second straight game he has led the Rockets in scoring. Jalen Bailey, the senior captain, chipped in 17 points of his own. Mack Warren, held scoreless in the first quarter, scored 12 points in the final three frames. To round out the scoring, senior guard Luke Allen scored three points, all in the second quarter.
As the Bulldogs prepare for Thursday’s game against River Mill Academy, their old conference foe, they will look to keep playing their brand of basketball while tweaking a few things to slow the Jaguars down.
“In our first two games of the season, we went with an exclusively zone defense,” said Bettendorf. “Against River Mill, we will try to go man-to-man, while making in-game adjustments. Man defense will put more pressure on the Jaguars because we face their shooters, which we will try to do effectively so they are not in their comfort zone. With the man defense, we will try to make other guys beat us.”
River Mill sees a lot of their production come through their two big men, who stand 6’ 6” and 6’7”. Bettendorf’s plan is to attack the Jaguars’ two big men.
“We want to make it as to where we put River Mill’s big men in foul trouble,” Bettendorf said. “If we do this, we force their other guys to make plays. We have a fast team, and I know we can run around River Mill to create plays and force them to adjust. To help with conditioning, we’re going to run full-court drills at game speed. I want us to treat our practice like a game.”
River Mill adds a little fuel to the fire for RCS. River Mill used to be in the same conference as RCS, but since the Jaguars’ departure to the Central Tar Heel 1A, RCS has not been able to schedule a game with them.
“River Mill is our biggest rival next to Voyager Academy,” said Bettendorf. Back in the 2016-2017 season, when River Mill was in our conference, they swept the two-game season series. I have been trying to schedule them ever since. This is the first year they have agreed to play us since. We are definitely going into this match up with an added chip on our shoulders.”