Bulldogs start slow, fall to Unicorns on Friday night

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The RCS women’s basketball team, coming off a 53-33 victory against Eno River Academy on Wednesday night, was looking to continue their winning ways in a Friday night matchup against the North Carolina School of Science and Math.

The first quarter was rough to the Bulldogs, as they only managed to score four points, with two of those points coming from point guard Tori Bailey’s free throws, and the other two on a jumper by senior center Paige Melton’s jumper.

In the second, third, and fourth quarters, the Bulldogs played much better basketball. While NCSSM won this game by a score of 70-35, RCS scored in double-digits in each of the last three quarters, with 10 points in the second quarter, 11 points in the third quarter, and 10 more points in the final quarter. Bailey led the Bulldogs with 20 points, Melton had 11 points, and Dulce Garcia had four points. Head coach Earl Bailey was proud of his team for responding after a rough opening eight minutes.

“The girls started fighting a little bit. That’s basically what I said at halftime, not to quit. I don’t care what the score is, the effort shouldn’t change. That’s what I wanted them to do. Don’t play the score, play the game. That’s what happened, the effort and energy picked up.”

When a team gets down by as much as the Bulldogs were at the half, 39-14, it is easy to give up and look ahead to the next game. The Bulldogs fought, however, and the results showed in the second half, as the Bulldogs even outscored the Unicorns 10-9 in the final quarter.

Before the game had even started, the Bulldogs psyched themselves out. Instead of focusing on their own gameplan, Bulldogs players were more concerned about what NCSSM was going to do.

“A couple were just all besides NCSSM, said Earl Bailey. “Our players were feeling physically intimated by them, and you could tell by the look in their eyes. In warmups, they started looking at NCSSM. When this happens, I just try to get my players to start focusing on themselves, and not on the other team. I try to get them to play in four-minute segments. That’s what I ask them to do: work on four minutes at a time.”

The Bulldogs had the Veteran’s Day holiday off from school, and Earl Bailey decided to give them a day off from practice, too. Yesterday, the Bulldogs got back to work in the RCS gym, and started preparing for their next opponent, River Mill Academy, who is a former RCS conference foe. River Mill is 0-2 on the season, with losses to Voyager Academy and Grace Christian.

“What we’re going to do in practice before Thursday’s game, we’re going to start focusing on just trying to be us again, to do four-minute spots,” said Earl Bailey. “I’m going to get five girls to work as a unit. My goal in practice is to get my players prepared well enough that they are ready and willing to play in game action.”

Having a young team, Bailey turns his focus to different things as opposed to if he had a veteran team. While Bailey is a coach, he takes on more of a teacher role to bring the young girls up to speed.

“The young girls are going to have to learn on their own from practicing and playing in game. I told them that they’re going to have to look into yourself and figure out what you want to do. The moment is right now. Practice is for figuring things out, including the difference between coaching and teaching, which are two different things. The girls that don’t know a whole lot, I am going to dedicate more time to teaching them than coaching. We don’t have a lot of time to do that, as we have a game tomorrow.”

Earl Bailey will employ a few things from opening week in the River Mill game on Thursday, but he will also change a few things to help his players adjust to being on the court together, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

“I tried man the other night just to see because some of the girls tried to play man while in zone,” said Earl Bailey. “I went man just to see if they wanted to play it. Some of the girls were tired. Some of the girls are slower. If Tori runs, she’s faster than most of their point. I run Tori and Dulce in man-to-man, and I put the other three girls in a zone. That way, we can get a quick turnover.”

When the Bulldogs match up against the Jaguars on Thursday night, they will have an opponent that has a familiar look. The one thing unfamiliar between these two teams, however, is their matchup history in recent years, as RCS has not played River Mill since 2016.

“I was talking with River Mill’s coach the other night,” said Earl Bailey. “He asked me about our game against NCSSM because the River Mill girls had to play them yesterday. I asked River Mill’s coach how his team was. Coach told me that River Mill is a young team like us. Going into our game tomorrow, we have to feed off that.”

Earl Bailey will look for a much better performance from his Bulldogs against River Mill, with one area specifically that he expects his team to execute in.

“We need patience. The other night, we were trying to get everywhere so quick, and we just need to calm down and be patient. Since there;s no shot clock and there’s eight minute quarters, I’m fine if we win 2-0. If we don’t have to be in a hurry, let’s not be in a hurry. We can get our shot when we need to. Let’s walk the ball up the court. We don’t need to be in a hurry.”

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