River Mill upends Bulldogs in high-scoring contest

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The Roxboro Community School (2-1) men’s basketball team, coming off of two straight wins against Eno River Academy and North Carolina School of Science and Math, was looking to make it three straight wins with a contest against old conference rival River Mill Academy (1-2), a team that head coach Justin Bettendorf was looking forward to playing in the preceding week.

Even though RCS received contributions up and down their lineup and bench, the Bulldogs saw their winning streak snapped, as they fell to the Jaguars by a score of 97-79. Chase Mebane, the Jaguars’ six-foot-seven center, scored 52 points to lead all scorers. There was one player for the Bulldogs, however, that Bettendorf said would have been a key to stopping Mebane.

“It didn’t help us that JR Paylor twisted his ankle in the Science and Math game. We needed every big body we had because we knew the whole team was going to revolve around Mebane. We were going to try and prevent him from getting the ball. You get worried about putting Bryson Pleasant or someone like that on him because he’s so important for the rest of the game, and we didn’t want him to get in foul trouble.”

There were a few guys that stepped up in Paylor’s absence, but even they struggled to contain Mebane’s explosiveness.

“Tonight, we relied on William Leonard and Thomas Humphries, said Bettendorf. “Ryan Eubanks, even though he’s not a true big, can go in there and give minutes. Luke Allen gave some post minutes.”

The Bulldogs had two days to prepare for River Mill, and they knew how good a player Mebane was. Bettendorf spoke about the importance of containing a player of Mebane’s caliber, and how his team will not have the luxury of preparation later in the season.

“It just comes down to having a better game plan and getting dialed in a little better. We’ll have quicker turnarounds than that when it comes to tournament time. River Mill was a good test for us early on. They gabe us an opportunity to check where we are as a team. We’re not right where we want to be. There’s always room for improvement.”

While the Bulldogs might have lost the game, their offense was impressive, as they scored 79 points against the Jaguars. Bettendorf recognized one area of the Bulldogs’ game that helped them score so much.

“A lot of our offense is still coming off transition points, which we’re pushing for in all of our early practices. That’s what’s going to be there a lot of times in game situations, that’s what helped carry us away from Science and Math. We love a fast up and down game.”

If the Bulldogs are having to hold their key players out of the game, it makes it that much tougher to get back in transition.

“What we don’t like is our starters getting in foul trouble and, even worse, fouling out of the game,” said Bettendorf. “We can’t get either of our guys on the front end of a two-two-one press, Jalen Bailey or Nasir Stokes, in foul trouble. We can’t get Nas in foul trouble because he’s such a key to the whole team in general.” Leonard was the only Bulldog who fouled out in this game, and Humphries, his post teammate, almost fouled out with four fouls.

The Bulldogs were in this game for the first half. In the second quarter alone, the Bulldogs outscored the Jaguars, 26-21. At halftime, the Bulldogs only trailed 38-42. Going into halftime, Bettendorf liked his team’s chances to draw closer and come up with a win.

“At halftime, we had a big momentum change with Bryson getting that dunk. The fourth quarter, however, is where River Mill really opened it up. Leonard picked up a quick foul, and it hurt when he had to sit on the bench and not having JR to step in. Humphries gave it his all, but we started to dip when Leonard came out of the game,” Bettendorf said.

Up next for the Bulldogs is a road test against Raleigh HomeSchool (2-2). If the Bulldogs want to win this game and games down the road this season, Bettendorf said his team will have to fix up a few things.

“Efficiency. We have to have better offensive efficiency when we don’t get easy transition baskets. We have to run our sets better, we have to try to get better looks in the halfcourt offense. We have to value possessions more. On defense, we have to lock in and stop somebody because, as you saw tonight, if you let someone score 97 points, you’re not putting up much of a defense. We’ll have a couple of practices next week where we’ll dial in on defense.”

Against the Jaguars, the Bulldogs were led by Stokes’ 40 points. Pleasant had 13 points, Bailey had 11, Mack Warren had six points, Humphries, Eubanks, and Jaylen Pointer had two points apiece, while Luke Allen rounded out the scoring with a made free throw.

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