Hampden-Sydney has Randolph-Macon’s number. These are words no one in Yellow Jacket Nation wants to hear. But if the men’s basketball team hopes to win the upcoming ODAC Tournament, they must find a way to solve their Tiger problem.
Two spurts of good play at the start of each half were negated by cold shooting and stellar Hampden-Sydney defense as Randolph-Macon fell 66-47 to the Tigers last Wednesday at a sold-out Crenshaw Gymnasium.
“First of all, I think you have to give them credit. They played well,” Yellow Jackets head coach Nathan Davis said. “They came in and played well, and, consequently, we didn’t.”
Randolph-Macon started strong, feeding off the play of senior center Dylan Cole, who had three points, two steals and a rebound in the game’s first two minutes. Baskets from Lamar Giggetts and Connor Sullivan gave the Jackets a 7-4 lead. But after a Hampden-Sydney timeout, the Tigers took off, scoring the game’s next 15 minutes over an 8:06 span, giving them a control over the game that they never truly gave up.
“The first six or seven minutes we played well defensively; I felt we played well defensively all game for the most part,” Davis noted. “But that eight-minute stretch where we kept turning the ball over, only taking a couple shots, despite how well we played defensively, they were able to get some easy baskets. They got a three-pointer to bounce around and go in, and they started to feel good about themselves.”
The Tigers kept that feeling going the remainder of the opening stanza, building the lead to as many as 19 points before a Sullivan jumper in the final minute cut the halftime deficit to 32-17.
The Jacket faithful finally found reason to cheer when Randolph-Macon began the second half on a 6-0 run. But while the Jackets held the Tigers to only three points in the first six minutes of the second half, Randolph-Macon couldn’t capitalize offensively to capture momentum and erase the Tiger edge.
A Joe Hassell layup cut the lead to 35-29, but was quickly followed by a three-point bomb from Hanover High graduate Greg Lewis, putting the Tigers’ advantage back at nine. Lewis scored 14 for Hampden-Sydney. Trent Walker responded with a basket and it was 38-31 with 12:34 to go. That “31” stayed on the scoreboard for what seemed like an eternity.
Over the next four minutes, Hampden-Sydney reeled off 11 straight points, it was 49-31 Tigers, and the Jackets never threatened again. Twice, the lead was as high as 26 before Macon generated some offense late to cut the final margin. This 66-47 defeat ended a five-game winning streak and was Randolph-Macon’s first loss since falling to the Tigers in Farmville 70-60 on Jan. 16.
Davis hoped for crisper passes to generate better offensive opportunities in their next game, and was happier with his team’s performance as the Jackets shot 52 percent from the field in their 85-71 ODAC win over Eastern Mennonite. The Jackets reeled off a 13-4 run in the final five minutes of the first half to hit the locker room up 46-29. Andre Simon continued his aggressive offensive prowess, pouring in 20 points, 12 in the first half. Giggetts added 15 while Akeem Holmes contributed 11 off the bench.
The regular season concludes this week. After a trip Wednesday (after presstime) to Shenandoah, the last place team in the ODAC, Randolph-Macon finishes at home Saturday at 2 p.m. against Randolph. Entering the week, Randolph was third in conference play at 10-4, while Randolph-Macon and Lynchburg were tied for fourth at 9-5. Randolph traveled to Lynchburg Wednesday, so the best-case scenario for the Jackets is two wins plus a Randolph win over Lynchburg. This would clinch the fourth seed for the Jackets in next week’s ODAC Tournament, giving them a bye in the first round and three extra days to prepare for postseason play. The Jackets are 14-9 overall.