By Tyler Hofmann-Reardon
This past week, the Roanoke Men’s Basketball team played two important late-season ODAC matchups against Shenandoah, and Randolph College. The first was last Tuesday in which the 7-12 (2-8 in the ODAC) Maroons traveled to Winchester to face the struggling 2-17 (1-9 in the ODAC) Hornets.
Looking to improve their seeding for the ODAC playoffs, the Maroons had a golden opportunity against the last place Hornets. Despite their record, the Hornets had some dangerous players on their roster. Powerhouse Malcolm Clark of the Hornets, a tough matchup for anyone, looked to give the Maroons some trouble despite the known tenacious defense of Daniel Eacho and Cameron Smith.
The Maroons got off to a hot start early in the game, jumping out to a 20-9 lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter, bolstered by an 11-2 run led by Eacho and Julian Ramirez. However, the Hornets soon followed up with a 12-4 run to bring the game within three, 24-21, showing that they would continue to fight despite any deficit. Soon, the Hornets brought the game within one, but Ramirez and Miller were able to hit back-to-back three pointers to kick-start the Maroons’ offense in the final five minutes of the first half. The Maroons continued their onslaught until the horn sounded and both teams entered the locker room with the Maroons holding on to a 12 point lead, 43-31.
The Maroons left nothing to chance in the second half. Only once did the Hornets manage to bring the Maroons lead down to single digits for two brief periods and both times Ramirez managed to squash their runs by attacking the lane, getting to the foul line, and sinking his free-throws. With poise at the line and ball security in the open court, the Maroons ensured a solid 87-78 victory over the Hornets.
The Maroons were led by Ramirez who bucketed 25 points, just two shy of his career best, going 7-9 from the field and 10-14 from the free-throw line. Eacho followed Ramirez with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season. Fitchett and Daniels followed up with 15 and 14 points respectively and Smith, who has been an absolute monster on the boards recently, secured 10 rebounds in the win.
After the big win, the Maroons shifted gears to take on ODAC rival Randolph at home. Randolph entered the game just two wins up on the Maroons in the ODAC standings with a record of 5-6. Needless to say, a win for the Maroons would propel them just one spot below Randolph around the middle of the conference and would put the team in a great position for a deep playoff run.
In what is starting to become the norm, the Maroons started out hot. Roanoke quickly took a 17-4 lead over the WildCats just seven minutes into the game, setting the tone of the game and giving the Maroons a solid cushion to build on. Each time the WildCats attempted to go on a run, the Maroons came back with three-pointers from Andrew Daniels. With a minute left to play, the Maroons held a 20 point advantage and held a significant 44-29 lead when the horn sounded ending the first half.
Although Roanoke scored the first points, Randolph soon began hitting shots during what would become a 12-0 run for the WildCats. With the lead cut to just nine points, the Maroons needed a spark if they wanted to stop the Wildcats momentum. Thanks to two big three-pointers from Fitchett, the Maroons were able to kick-start a run that brought their lead up to 19 points. This proved to be the last effort for the WildCats and the Maroons held their lead until the final horn sounded, signaling a 21 point, 88-67 Maroon victory.
For the ninth time this season, Daniels led Roanoke in scoring, notching 19 points. Alexander Weant followed up 12 points on 5-6 shooting while Smith once again pulled down 10+ boards for the Maroons, his 6th game of ten or more rebounds. As a team, the Maroons shot 53 percent from the field, the third time the team has crested 50 percent shooting in the last six games. The Maroons are now 5-1 when shooting 50 percent or above from the field.
With the two wins, the Maroons improve their overall record to 9-12 and their ODAC record now sits at 4-8 which is still on the lower end of the ODAC standings. Hopefully the Maroons will be able to continue with their recent successes as they look to close out the season with a winning streak and hot hands heading into the playoffs. Be sure to come out and root for the Maroons when they play their next home game on Feb. 14 against Hampden-Sydney at 3:30 p.m.