BY Rob Witham
One week, two games. Two road trips, seventy combined points, two victories, both over county rivals.
It was a good week to be Devyn Coles of Patrick Henry boys basketball. But don’t expect Coles to be obsessing on his scoring. He’s laser focused on getting the Patriots what they couldn’t find early in the season: success.
“It’s great (to win). Everyone was saying Hanover this and Hanover that, but now we’ve got the flow of things and we’re riding the wave,” Coles explained.
In a period of eight days, the Patriots watched a huge lead at home to Hanover disappear before surviving in overtime, battled, but fell short at Armstrong Monday, traveled to Hanover Tuesday, where Coles scored 20 of his season-high 43 points in the fourth quarter to help Patrick Henry sweep the Hawks 68-61.
Then came Friday, and a trip to Lee-Davis for the Patriots’ first meeting with the Confederates. The crowd was alive for both teams, coming off a marathon girls basketball overtime game won by Patrick Henry 50-42. Coles and his teammates then took the floor, and began battling their oldest county rival.
A three-point play from Rory Ailor, coupled with quick foul issues for Lee-Davis, helped Patrick Henry open a 5-0 lead. Coles would get going early as well, scoring ten points to help the Patriots lead 16-5 after one period.
The Confederates answered in the second as Adonis Carroll scored on a dunk, then a baseline jumper, and the Lee-Davis deficit was down to four at 19-15. But the next six points came from the Patriots over a 1:45 stretch for a 25-15 lead. Patrick Henry led 27-17 at intermission.
Coles and the Patriots stretched the lead over the first three minutes of the second half to fifteen, then enjoyed the lead for the rest of the night, Lee-Davis able to cut the margin to eight after three periods, but no further. The Confederates battled to the end, as Devin Christian forced two five-second defensive turnovers late, but Lee-Davis ran out of time.
In the final seconds, Jamel Jackson found Coles, as if they were at football practice, on a perfect pass down the length of the court for a layup to make the final score 62-51 Patriots, Patrick Henry’s third win in four games, and fifth on the season. It was Patrick Henry’s first victory over a team not in Region 4B.
“The goal was, we were trying to go 3-0 this week, but, 2-1, we’ll take it, especially with what we’ve been dealt since the beginning of the season,” said Patriots head coach Randy Anderson. “We’re trying to tell the guys, just keep your eyes on the prize. Let’s stay focused, we can only take care of ourselves. Let everything else fall into place.”
In the four-game stretch, Coles combined for a total of 127 points: 33 in the first win over Hanover, 24 against Armstrong, the 43-point explosion at Hanover, and, Friday, he left Lee-Davis with 27 points. That’s a four-game average of almost 32 points per contest, almost eight points per period.
How has it happened?
“I don’t have to shoulder the load, I let the game come to me,” Coles explained. “I take what the defense gives me and take advantage of it, and that’s how I get my points.”
With Ailor, Tysen Brown and others setting screens, Coles gets free for a split second, and must decide whether to head to the hoop, or stop for the quick jumper, or even to back out and reset the offense. Decisions that take milliseconds need to come naturally.
“I just play naturally. If I have the shot, I’ll shoot it,” Coles noted.
“When you have a horse like (Coles), man, I’ll take that any day,” Anderson said with a smile. “I’m always telling him, come with the attitude, not a cockiness or an arrogance, but come with the attitude that you know you’re the best on the floor, and continue to be a leader. Your teammates will follow you through anything. I can’t say enough about him. He rose to the occasion, and he’s making everyone else play better.”
Hopes for a postseason bid flicker in Region 4B, but it won’t be easy down the stretch. First, the Patriots must try to avenge a 65-36 loss January 12th to Atlee when the Raiders come to Ashland on Friday. Tuesday means a trip to second-ranked Varina. Their final two games are at home: Wednesday hosting Hermitage and February 9th in their Lee-Davis rematch.
If the Patriots could be within striking distance of the top eight positions in Region 4B when Hermitage and Lee-Davis come calling, they’ll certainly give it their best shot.
And it’s more than certain that the best player on the floor, and, one of the hottest players in the Richmond area, will, again don #3 for Patrick Henry.