By Jeff Nations
WOODSTOCK -- Kenya Ray-Abrams felt he had much to atone for heading into Thursday night's home boys basketball matchup against Randolph-Macon Academy.
Just a night before, the Massanutten Military Academy standout senior forward had one of his poorer games of the season in a Cavalier Athletic Conference loss to Wakefield School.
Bad games are bad enough, but bad games when you're the coach's son? That wouldn't do at all.
Ray-Abrams did his penance, which consisted of punishing the Yellow Jackets to the tune of a 29-point, 16-rebound effort as the Colonels scored a 48-39 victory in non-conference action.
"Yesterday I didn't play as hard as I could've, so my mindset today was to come out here and play 110 percent throughout the whole game," Ray-Abrams said.
That focused ferocity stunned the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter, as Ray-Abrams nearly took over the game with an 11-point first quarter that staked the Colonels to a 13-6 lead.
R-MA (3-9) trailed by as many as nine early after MMA's Demetrius Brooks buried a pull-up jumper to open the second-quarter scoring, but the Yellow Jackets did slow Ray-Abrams a bit in the second frame. Ray-Abrams tallied just three points in the second quarter, and it took a pair of 3-pointers by teammate Chase McDevitt to keep the Colonels ahead 26-21 at the break.
"They put in the time," MMA coach Melvin Abrams said. "We do a lot of drills and shooting. I'm one of those coaches who [thinks] if you've got an open shot and it's a shot you can make, take it. [McDevitt] made a couple."
The Yellow Jackets stayed hot to open the second half, producing an 8-0 run capped by Kevin Slaton's 3-pointer to grab a 29-26 lead. That seemed to set Ray-Abrams off again, as he answered with three straight baskets, the last a three-point play, and Brooks finished the 9-0 run with a layup off his steal to keep MMA (5-4) out front.
"I do get a little confidence when I start hitting shots," Ray-Abrams said. "I just ask for the ball and see what I can do."
"He's a helluva player," R-MA coach Clay Clinedinst said of Ray-Abrams. "The trouble is, we didn't help each other. When he drove by, there was no backside help. Everybody wanted to play their guy, just their guy. Any defense you run, there's always got to be help. We offered no help."
Still, the Yellow Jackets stayed close with a few timely baskets, and Neil Dutton's jumper with 3:15 to go pulled R-MA back within one at 40-39. That, as it turned out, was the last time the Yellow Jackets would score.
"As a team, I challenged them tonight," Abrams said. "I said three things -- play hard, play smart and play for each other and give yourself a chance to win. I liked the effort tonight. They were playing hard."
Ray-Abrams and Brooks delivered back-to-back baskets after Dutton's jumper, and the Colonels made 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Brooks added nine points and eight rebounds for the Colonels. Marcus Williams had nine points to lead R-MA.
As far as atonement goes, it sounds as though Ray-Abrams is back in his dad's good graces.
"Kenya played outstanding tonight," Abrams said. "Being his dad, sometimes I'm a little tough on him. But he played one of his better games this year for us."
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