Sometimes the stars just align in the right place. On Senior Night at Crenshaw Gymnasium before a raucous, sold-out crowd, the Randolph-Macon men’s basketball team had the opportunity to clinch the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) regular season title. All they needed was a victory over their archrival, Hampden-Sydney.
One more star completed the alignment: Chris Hamilton. The junior had a shooting performance for the ages, hitting all eight of his 3-point attempts, plus three free throws just before halftime, for a perfect night, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 90-67 thumping of the Tigers, winning the ODAC and clinching the top seed in next week’s ODAC Tournament in Salem.
“My job is to be a shooter. Sometimes after hitting a couple of shots, you know you’re in a groove,” Hamilton explained courtside following the win. “The great thing is whether I make five in a row or miss five in a row, the coaches and my teammates tell me to keep shooting. They have confidence in me, and that means a lot.”
Hamilton knocked in four treys in each half, helping the Jackets build a 10-point lead at 25-15 with 9:33 before the half, the aforementioned free throws building their intermission margin to 14 at 44-30.
The Tigers shot 49 percent from the field on the game, only taking five less shots than the Jackets. But Randolph-Macon’s offense simply swarmed the Tigers, shooting 56.7 percent, 10-of-19 overall, from 3-point land. The hot shooting opened the inside for easy baskets in the second half as the lead extended to 20 and more.
The capacity crowd of 1,330 was easily the noisiest and hottest Crenshaw has seen in years, their crescendo of celebration building with every downtown bomb by Hamilton. By the time crowd favorite Hunter Fromang entered the game and scored six points in the final three minutes, Crenshaw was in an absolute frenzy.
Andre Simon had a quiet night by his standards, playing his final regular season game at Crenshaw along with Jamie Robinson, scoring seven points. But that didn’t bother the senior leader.
“I had a lot of emotions tonight, of course,” Simon said. “It’s great when we have a night shooting outside like this, I can just feed them ball from the inside out.”
In all, 12 Yellow Jackets scored at least two points, showing the depth of this Randolph-Macon team. Any team that can play, and play well, that deep into their bench can, when presented the opportunity, make a deep run into the postseason.
But before Randolph-Macon can focus on using the top tournament seed as a springboard in Salem to back-to-back ODC Tournament championships, and, with it, a fifth consecutive berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament, they must avoid a letdown Saturday in their regular season finale at Washington & Lee.
“My freshman year we went to Washington & Lee in a similar situation and we lost by 20,” Hamilton recalled. “I’ll remember that.”
Randolph-Macon head coach Nathan Davis said he has confidence his team is experienced enough to keep their positive momentum going.
“I hope our team has been through enough game situations now that they know what they need to do, and get the job done,” he said.
No matter what the outcome on Saturday night, Randolph-Macon will begin defense of their ODAC Tournament title in a quarterfinal on Friday, Feb. 28, 1 p.m., at Salem Civic Center.
Taylor Huber (Patrick Henry) led with 19 points while Sarah Parsons (J.R. Tucker) added 16 as the Randolph-Macon women’s team moved into a tie for second place in the ODAC with one game to play, defeating Washington & Lee 75-69 Wednesday night in Lexington.
Point guard Khajae Hester added 10 points while freshman Stephanie Staples (Atlee) added eight, six in the first half. Katie Anderson (Patrick Henry) also had eight points and added nine rebounds.
The Jackets moved to 19-5 overall, winners of six consecutive games. They return to Crenshaw for their Senior and Parent Day on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Emory & Henry. Randolph-Macon is currently fighting Lynchburg for the number two seed in next week’s ODAC Tournament. A Yellow Jacket victory Saturday, coupled with a Lynchburg loss at top-seed Eastern Mennonite, would give Randolph-Macon that #2 seed in Salem.