By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Any time you commit 27 turnovers in a basketball game, odds are the final outcome isn't going to be in your favor.
Couple those turnovers with a very poor shooting performance and an opponent that seemingly hits every shot that it throws up, and you're in for a downright miserable evening.
Such was the case for host Randolph-Macon Academy in its Delaney Athletic Conference matchup with Highland School on Thursday, as the visiting Hawks blew out the Yellow Jackets 63-20. It was the first game since for R-MA since a Dec. 19 loss to Warren County, and Yellow Jackets coach Clay Clinedinst made an understandable request after Thursday's rout.
"Can I go back to holiday break?" Clinedinst asked.
Very little went right for the Yellow Jackets, and it was apparent from the start that R-MA was in for a long game.
Highland started the game about as quickly as a team can, as junior Logan Miller snatched the opening tip near the mid-court stripe and pushed hard for a layup to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead just three seconds into the contest.
From then the rout was on. Highland opened the game on a 12-3 run through the first six minutes behind five points by junior Rahji Johnson and a 3-pointer by Dylan Gaither. The Hawks held a 15-5 lead after one quarter while forcing seven Yellow Jacket turnovers in the first eight minutes. Nine of Highland's points in the first period came off fast-break opportunities.
"We got off to a really good start. We moved the ball really well," Hawks coach Jake Shechtman said. "We knew that any time we are focused and any time we are defending, we know that we are off to a good start. I don't care who you're playing -- you hold anybody to 20 points, you're doing well."
Highland's offense kept right on chugging in the second period -- only this time, it was from behind the 3-point arc where the Hawks did most of their damage.
The Hawks hit six 3-pointers in the quarter, outscoring the Yellow Jackets 25-8 in the frame. Miller led the onslaught, as the 5-foot-11 guard hit four treys in five Highland possessions over a span of two minutes to give the Hawks a 37-10 lead with 1:20 left in the first half.
Miller led all scorers with 21 points.
Highland finished the game hitting 26 of 57 (45.6 percent) of its shots, but the Hawks shot 57.1 percent (24 for 42) through the third period before using their bench players for most of the final period. R-MA shot just 8 for 40 (20 percent) for the game.
"Highland was very fundamentally sound. They just worked everything," Clinedinst said. "And then they were hitting their 3s. I saw at least some glimmer of running our offense. We had some good looks, we just missed the shots."
R-MA (2-5) trailed 40-13 at halftime and the third period brought with it more struggles for the Yellow Jacket offense. Highland opened the second half on an 18-0 run, and R-MA didn't score a point for nearly the entire third quarter. Yellow Jackets junior Chris Rowe finally hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining to make the score 58-16 heading into the final period.
Highland mixed up its defense regularly against R-MA, switching between zone and man-to-man looks while also mixing in some full-court pressure. Clinedinst said his team rushed its offense, which played right into Highland's strategy.
"We try to switch defenses, get them off rhythm. It's all about defense," Shechtman said. "Our guards get ball pressure and our bigs are doing good things down below. We were fortunate enough to shoot it in tonight, but that's not always going to happen. But every night you can defend your butt off."
Shechtman said a main focus for the Hawks was to shut down R-MA forward Carson Holden, who entered the game averaging 10.2 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Holden finished Thursday's game with just two points, scoring his only bucket of the game as time expired in the final period.
Junior Bill Choi led the Yellow Jackets with six points, and Rowe added five for R-MA. Gaither and Johnson added 10 points apiece for Highland.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org