First Posted: 2/20/2009
ELIZABETHTOWN After South Robeson’s 49-36 loss to West Bladen in the Southeastern 2-A/1-A Conference tournament championship game, Mustangs junior guard Tyray Belin knew what his team needed to do better.
“We played their style of setting up in the half court,” Belin said. “We need to just run. Our style is to run and we didn’t do that. Today we weren’t pushing the ball up the court.”
The Knights held South Robeson’s top two scorers Belin and senior captain Cory Thompson to just 10 points.
During the regular season, the duo averaged nearly 30 points per contest.
Still, entering the fourth quarter, the Mustangs trailed by only five points, thanks to Kyle Oxendine’s team-high 18 points.
Oxendine was the only Mustangs player in double figures. The scoring struggles, combined with fatigue and 13 second-half turnovers, transformed a close, physical game into another West Bladen conference title game rout.
“They wanted it more than us,” Oxendine said. “We didn’t work hard in the second half. Our team gets satisfied when it gets close and this is what happens.”
South Robeson head coach Bryan Grice said his team’s penchant for losing focus can be a hinderance.
“The energy level was low in the second half and they basically just wanted it a little more than we did,” Grice said. “It doesn’t take much for individuals on our team for whatever reason to lose focus.”
Said Oxendine: “They were doing the same things they usually do. We can blame it on the refs or blame it on the coaches, but they can’t play for us. It’s us.”
Belin agreed with Grice and Oxendine.
“They’re a physical team,” Belin said. “Every loose ball they went for and got it. We were just playing real relaxed. They wanted it more.”
While he wasn’t happy with the loss, Grice said positives could be taken from the game.
“Based on our record, we’ll win three or four straight, lose and then go on another streak,” he said. “Sometimes and I guess I do it too we get the big head. I don’t like to call a loss a good thing but it’s a chance for us to refocus. I still don’t like losing though.”
The Mustangs will host a game in the first-round of the state playoffs on Monday.
“We’re happy with being runner-ups,” Grice said. “There are five or six other teams that didn’t make it this far. I think we saw what it takes to be a champion and hopefully they’ll use it in this run to the state championship.”
South Robeson led by as much as eight, 14-6, early in the first half thanks to 10 first quarter points from Oxendine.
The teams traded baskets throughout the second quarter and the Knights led South Robeson 25-22 at halftime.
Belin dished out seven assists, while Thompson grabbed six rebounds.
Cruz Drake led West Bladen with 15 points.