A 24-9 first quarter deficit was too much to overcome for the RCS men’s basketball team, as they lost 101-67 to Henderson Collegiate on Tuesday night.
After a rough first quarter, the Bulldogs rebounded to score 19 points in the second. Senior point guard Nasir Stokes scored eight points in this quarter, senior captain Jalen Bailey had nine, and senior guard Mack Warren recorded two.
RCS (7-9, 3-2) continued that momentum into the third quarter, as they scored 15 points. Stokes had nine, while Bailey, Bryson Pleasant, and William Leonard registered two each. In the fourth quarter, however, the Bulldogs were put away by the Pride, as RCS was outscored 37-24.
After being up by one early in the first quarter, the wheels fell off for the Bulldogs.
“What tricked us into playing the way they (Henderson Collegiate) wanted to was the first four minutes of the game,” said RCS head coach Justin Bettendorf. “It was quick, up-and-down, back-and-forth. After our early lead, it was like a switch flipped. They (Henderson Collegiate) were running to the corners and knocking down threes. They scored 15 unanswered. It seemed like we couldn’t get our legs underneath us, and they continued to get run-outs.”
The Bulldog coach said his team played better in the third period.
“I think we made a decent adjustment in the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter, things went wrong,” said Bettendorf. “We looked a little winded, and they put the pedal to the medal. You have to respect that. If you have a lead on someone, go ahead and put them out of their misery. Henderson Collegiate did that to us.”
Javonte Waverly, the player to watch for Henderson Collegiate, was limited to eight first-half points by the Bulldogs. With the Bulldog defense focusing on Waverly, other players saw more opportunities to score.
“We did a nice job of limiting him,” said Bettendorf. “He picked up two fouls and had to sit. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter we let him get some open shots. However, a lot of his teammates were just making wide-open layups. We forgot they had four other guys on the court. They were able to go to work on us.”
In hopes of getting the Bulldogs refocused, Bettendorf called a couple of timeouts when Henderson Collegiate was starting to break the game open.
“We hit hard on the things that seemed most obvious. We have to get back in transition. Normally, we have two guys getting back, and three on the offensive rebound. If we need more guys getting back, it’s an adjustment to make because we will have guys with their feet stuck in the mud.”
When the game was too far gone for RCS, Bulldog players still fought until the final whistle, which is a testament to what Bettendorf emphasizes in every game and practice.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re up or down by 40, our effort level should stay the same. If it’s not, I’ve got guys on the bench who are ready to go in there and give us 100 percent effort. No one let their effort level go down on Tuesday night.”
Had the Bulldogs had more players on their bench, there could have been more of an opportunity to rest starters.
“Due to sickness and injures, I want to say we only had four bench players,” said Bettendorf. “It didn’t help in a game like that. There were several times where we cleared the bench: leave this guy, and get everybody else out of there. Guys looked winded and defeated.”
Even though Tuesday was the first game in 18 days for the Bulldogs, Bettendorf was impressed with how well his team practiced heading into the game.
“I will say that Monday was one of the best practices we’ve ever had. Our guys came out with a high energy level and executed well with the stuff we were doing in practice. I don’t think any of our guys looked as rusty as they could have from a break like that”
Now that the Bulldogs have their two toughest games of the season (Henderson Collegiate on Jan. 7, Voyager Academy last night) behind them, they can breathe until they see the Pride and Vikings again in February.
“That’s huge going forward, to knock these two games out back-to-back,” said Bettendorf. “To know that we see these two teams again at the end of the conference season, they’ll be coming to us. The rest of these games until then are well within our grasp.”
In Tuesday’s game, RCS was led in scoring by Stokes’ 30 points. Bailey recorded 21, as he was the only other Bulldog to score in double-figures. Pleasant and senior captain JR Paylor recorded six points each, while Leonard and Warren dropped two each.