Yellow Jackets now alone at the top
It was the 25th annual “Back To The Hive” homecoming event Saturday at Crenshaw Gymnasium. Dozens of former Randolph-Macon basketball players came home, many who played for the guest of honor, legendary head coach Paul Webb.
And, in front of the program’s foundation, the 2014 Yellow Jackets put on a show for the ages.
Solid behind-the-arc shooting led Randolph-Macon over Guilford Saturday.
In one of the best three-point shooting performances in team history, Randolph-Macon nailed 13 three-pointers in just 20 attempts, and blew out the only team to beat them so far in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), the Guilford Quakers, 103-58. The win gave the Jackets sole possession of first place at 9-1 in the conference and ran their winning streak to 11.
“We had a great shooting night as a team,” said a smiling Connor Sullivan, who had 13 points, including three from beyond the arc. “I know I’m a streaky shooter sometimes, but luckily I was on tonight.”
Five of seven Jackets who took at least six field goal attempts shot 50 percent or higher.
One of the two who didn’t, Akeem Holmes (King William), went 5-of-11 for the game, but his early six points set the tone at a point when Guilford was matching Randolph-Macon point for point. It was 8-6 Jackets four minutes in. Less than two minutes later, freshman Jamie Wilson went to work, knocking home three consecutive treys in a three-minute span. The lead went to 17-8. But no one in attendance could anticipate the domination that was just beginning to unfold.
After a Jake Hopkins layup cut the lead to 19-12, leading scorer Chris Hamilton (16 points) hit, of course, a trey, for a 22-12 Randolph-Macon lead with 10:14 left in the first half. The lead would stay in double digits the rest of the way.
Guilford went ice cold, finishing the first half just 9-for-35, shooting 25.7 percent. Randolph-Macon shot 51 percent, 70 percent from three-point range, and the halftime lead was 21 points at 45-24.
A special celebration at midcourt honoring Webb, the all-time winningest coach in Randolph-Macon history with 315 wins between 1956 and 1975, only seemed to fuel the Jackets and their fans.
In the first minute of the second half, an Andre Simon steal led to a Marcus Badger layup. Two turnovers and a Sullivan three-pointer later, it was 50-24. The rest of the game was a mere exercise in playing the required 40 minutes.
There was no secret to the keys to avenging their loss to the Quakers, 73-71 in overtime on Nov. 26.
“They (Guilford) have the same gameplan, they didn’t want us to feed down low,” Randolph-Macon Head Coach Nathan Davis noted. “When they pack down, it gives our shooters an opportunity, and we took advantage of it today.”
In addition to four Jackets being in double figures, the team had 25 assists while only committing six turnovers. Couple that with 55 percent shooting from the field, and one may wonder if Randolph-Macon may have turned in their signature performance Saturday. With many goals ahead of the team, this is a constant thought, but not a concern.
“It’s my job, and our goal, to ensure that this is not the best game we play this year,” Davis noted emphatically at the start of his conversation with reporters following the game.
In his fifth season at the helm in the position once held by Webb, Davis has won over 76 percent of his games, 75 percent of his ODAC matchups. They won’t shoot 65 percent from three-point land every day, no one can. But the Jackets never had to rely on their normal offensive focal point, the inside play of Simon, Hassell, Holmes and others, to win by 45 points.
The game earned a measure of national respect for Randolph-Macon, now four spots out of the Division III Top 25. Their last loss was at unbeaten, second-ranked Cabrini College, 98-91 Dec. 18. If the Jackets continue to play like they did at “Back To The Hive,” a fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance is very possible.
The ability, talent, and developing chemistry is also there to go further than their Sweet Sixteen performance of a year ago. It would certainly honor Webb once more, and further cement the quickly developing legacy of Davis.