Empty handed

RCHS guard Braxton Daniel has the ball knocked away on a drive to the basket in his team's 57-50 loss to Saks last Thursday.

This is a story about an unconventional basketball team having an unconventional season. It’s a team that has surrendered less than 30 points defensively in four of its nine games and somehow lost one of those games. And despite those paltry scoring totals, the head coach is still not happy with his team’s defensive performance.

That same coach refers to his team as robots in one analogy, and then calls them rabbits moments later, and both words are used as critical terms for the team’s performance.

The team is the 4-5 RCHS Tigers and the head coach is Clifton Drummonds, who is in his second season at his alma mater.

The Tigers are an athletic team, but Drummonds’s analysis paints the picture of a group that has yet come to a full understanding of how the game needs to be played.

“We’ve got to start playing off of instincts, and right now we’re kind of moving like robots out there playing defense and not moving off instincts and anticipation,” Drummonds said.

That defense, combined with a methodical pace of play, has led to those four games in which RCHS’s opponents failed to crack the 30-point mark.

But Drummonds, who has always held defense as a centerpiece of his coaching philosophy, is not quite ready to celebrate his team’s ability to stop opponents from scoring.

“I don’t really know if it had a lot to do with us or more to do with the teams that we’ve been playing. I’m not at all pleased with the way we’re playing defense right now,” Drummonds said.

Those four games came against teams that had a combined record of 6-35 going into play Tuesday, and the most recent was a 28-27 loss to Central of Clay County over the holiday break that accounted for Central’s first win of the season.

Which leads us back to RCHS’s offense. The Tigers have won four games despite the fact that they have broken the 50-point mark just three times, and two of those games were losses.

“We’ve just got to understand making better decisions with the ball late in ballgames,” Drummonds said. “Sometimes we take shots we shouldn’t take when we’re up and we want to run the clock. We don’t need to be in a hurry.”

“We’re not being patient and relaxing and letting the game come to us,” Drummonds added. “We’re kind of moving like rabbits when we don’t need to.”

The Tigers came off of their winter break with a 57-50 loss to Saks last Friday. They followed that up with a 51-42 win over Ranburne Monday. And they played both of those games without staring point guard Dante Jordan and backup guard Damarcus Davis, who were participating in a high school all-star football game in Florida.

“It was big because Dante has been our main ball handler, and then Davis has been the backup,” Drummonds said. “And when they’re both in the game it takes some pressure off of Dante.”

Braxton Daniel took over the primary ball handling duties in the absence of those two guards, and in the process the senior developed a newfound respect for his teammates.

“I was talking to Braxton yesterday and he said, ‘I won’t ever say anything else to Dante,’ because he understood what it’s like to be the point guard. He had to carry the weight the last two ballgames.”

Daniel had 11 points in the loss to Saks and added 14 in the win over Ranburne, but the team committed 23 and 19 turnovers in those games, respectively.

Johnathan Protho also came up big in the last two games. He led the team with 17 points against Ranburne and added 10 points and 11 rebounds against Saks.

RCHS has won its only area game this season, but the Tigers have three more over the course of the next seven days before the start of the county tournament next weekend.

“We’re going to find out a lot about ourselves this week,” Drummonds said. “I think the area’s wide open. I think anybody can win it.”

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