By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- Randolph-Macon Academy boys basketball coach Clay Clinedinst has been hard at work trying to splash some proverbial cold water on the Yellow Jackets' season-long love affair with the 3-point shot.
Clinedinst has been trying to convince his squad that their best hope of scoring, as a team and as individuals, lies much closer to the rim. Maybe it's seeping in -- that seemed to be the case on Thursday as R-MA attacked in the paint all night long in a 59-49 win over Fredericksburg Academy.
The victory snapped a five-game skid for R-MA (2-5), and showcased just how tough the Yellow Jackets can be when they look for their big men first. Carson Holder, a 6-foot-3 forward, finished with a game-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds and six blocks. Sophomore Paul Miller had 12 points and 19 rebounds, plus four blocks, as the Yellow Jackets simply dominated in the paint.
"They like the 3," Clinedinst said. "I'm not sure the difference, but you should never be shooting more 3s than 2s. It shouldn't even be close. I told them I wanted the ball to go inside-out. Carson and Paul create problems, and I said if you really want to score then give it to them because they'll eventually have to collapse. And when they collapse, you're open."
The Yellow Jackets set the tone from the start, feeding Holder and Miller inside to jump out to an 8-0 lead. Holder finished the first quarter with 10 points as the Yellow Jackets held a 16-10 advantage after the opening period.
A 9-0 run midway through the second quarter capped by a Miller bucket in the paint boosted the Yellow Jackets' lead to 28-15, but the Falcons regrouped to score the final seven points of the quarter.
Fredericksburg Academy (5-6) narrowed the gap to six points early in the third quarter, but R-MA answered back with another seven-point burst. The Falcons came back with three straight baskets to get within 37-30 with 2:56 left in the quarter, but again R-MA answered with a 7-0 run to push the lead back out.
"This team relies a lot on hustle, running up and down the floor," Miller said. "I don't think we've really hustled that hard throughout the game, like ever, to be honest. This is probably the hardest working game that we've had."
Down 14 points after Miller's stickback to open the fourth quarter, the Falcons roared back behind guard Matt Vance. With Vance providing eight points, Fredericksburg Academy unleashed an 11-0 run to get back to within 48-43 with 4:22 to play.
R-MA's lead was still just five when Yellow Jackets guard Chris Rowe sliced through the lane to receive a nifty pass from Miller for a layup, and on the next trip downcourt Rowe drilled a jumper to push the lead back to nine points with 1:33 to go.
A 3-pointer by Zeke McDermott briefly gave the Falcons some life at 55-48, but Holder closed on the victory with back-to-back breakaway layups.
"We had real great teamwork today," Holder said. "We executed coming down the court, and then we got stops on defense. I think that's where we came out with the victory."
Falcons coach Eyal Fierst was happy with his team's comeback effort, but said a few lapses during the game were too costly to make good.
"I was pleased with the effort," Fierst said. "We did a good job playing inside-out, kind of attacking the paint. We knew that we were going to have to work together to try to deal with the big guys inside, and we struggled at times.
"We're not very big, and that's going to be a challenge for us. Frankly, I thought we maybe gave up on some box outs at times."
Vance finished with 20 points to lead Fredericksburg Christian. Nathan McDermott added 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Rowe chipped in nine for the Yellow Jackets, who made up for losing the turnover battle (17-7) by outrebounding the Falcons 47-32 in the game.
Clinedinst said the breakthrough actually might have come in R-MA's previous game, a lopsided loss to Trinity Christian earlier in the week.
"The kid's got a clue -- it's tempo," Clinedinst said. "We started pushing it. At Trinity the other night, the guys were coming down the floor and I said, 'Push it, just push it,' and we created havoc for them. Now we lost by 30, but I could see where we were creating havoc and people were out of position for them."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>