By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- For Randolph-Macon Academy boys basketball coach Eric Dudley, it's a new season.
After his players returned from a long holiday break, the Yellow Jackets coach said it's like starting all over with a new season.
On Monday night, his team showed signs of a new squad, committing 28 turnovers, but used a tough defensive presence to pick up a 62-44 win over Massanutten Military Academy. R-MA was able to force 37 turnovers and limit the Colonels to just 17 field goals in the victory.
"There was a lot of up and down, but overall I think we did pretty good," Dudley said. "Honestly, since Christmas break, the school shuts down and the students go home for two weeks and it's almost like starting over when we come back. We really have been playing so many games we haven't had a lot of practice time to just focus on fundamentals and get back to the basics."
Despite its troubles holding onto the ball, the Yellow Jackets' offense got off to a hot start, thanks to a lights-out shooting performance from Khalleq Everret. Everret hit his first four shots, then added two free throws in the opening quarter to help the visiting team jump out to a 13-2 lead. Massanutten's Landon Brown tried his best to keep pace with Everret, hitting his first two shots to keep the Colonels within six heading into the second quarter.
"[Brown's] got the potential, [but I'm] not quite sure if he's a point guard," Massanutten coach Melvin Abrams said. "A lot of his turnovers come from the fact that we've got him in a position where he's probably more of a wing player, so he's getting a lot better. He has the desire to learn, so we'll see."
The second quarter featured turnovers. A lot of them. The two teams combined for 17 in the quarter, more than either teams' point total for the period. Neither team was able to get into a sustained offensive rhythm, keeping the Yellow Jackets' lead hovering around two possessions. Brown continued his solid shooting night, scoring six points in the quarter to help the Colonels head into halftime with a five-point deficit.
"It's tough," Abrams said. "We've got a couple of guys who got here the second semester and it was just up and down. We're a young team and there are a lot of guys who haven't played before, so as you can see we turn the ball over too much. That's something I've been talking about all year."
The turnovers continued into the second half, however, as both teams struggled offensively. The Colonels committed 13 turnovers, but nine from the Yellow Jackets helped them stay within striking distance. While Everret cooled off a bit to start the third quarter, teammate Habibullah Heban compensated, scoring five points in the period to extend R-MA's lead to 11 points heading into the final quarter.
Oddly enough, both teams seemed to settle down in the fourth quarter, taking their time with offensive possessions and keeping the turnovers to single digits. MMA started the quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the Yellow Jackets' lead to just five with less than six minutes to play, but three straight scores off Colonels' turnovers quickly put the R-MA lead back into double digits, where the Yellow Jackets held on for the 18-point win.
"It's kind of tough sometimes if the competition isn't always matched up, you tend to play down," Dudley said. "I was trying to keep the guys from doing that and I think they thought they could take advantage, but all of a sudden it's a close game so we really had to stay on them and push and do what we do."