Wednesday, January 25, 2023

#d3hoops: Kagey Explodes For 28 As Randolph-Macon Bests Shenandoah

ASHLAND -- We should have known a special night was coming for Randolph-Macon junior Catherine Kagey when she hit nothing but net on a 55-foot shot just after the start of the buzzer ending the first period of Wednesday's Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) showdown with Shenandoah.

It was the only thing that didn't go Kagey's way on this night, as she dominated the court from end to end, pouring in 28 points, grabbing eleven rebounds, and creating openings for her teammates as Randolph-Macon pulled away from the Hornets for a 65-49 victory to improve to 10-2 in ODAC play, and 13-5 overall.

"The work that Catherine puts in on the court, she does that everywhere, whether in the classroom, anything she does is at full throttle," noted Yellow Jackets head coach Lindsey Burke after the win. "Even near the end, I kept asking her, do you need a sub? You're everywhere on offense and defense, and if you need a breather, I'll take you out, and she said, no, I'm good, I'm good."

Kagey was the constant presence on this night for the Yellow Jackets, but her performance was more a matter of opening space for her teammates rather than putting them on her back. Senior point guard Cheridan Hatfield was in double figures with 12 points, adding six rebounds, four assists and a block. Freshman Jane Elkins flashed signs of being a future Kagey for the Yellow Jackets, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds in just over fifteen minutes of action.

The first of two sparkling assists involving Hatfield and Kagey came in the first period, as Kagey scored an And One driving to the hoop after grabbing a Hatfield laser for a 9-4 lead.

The Yellow Jackets built a nine-point advantage, but the Hornets cut into it just before intermission, cutting the margin to five at 26-21.

Shenandoah (7-5 ODAC, 11-7) began the third period constantly feeding center Shawnise Campbell, who scored six of her 14 points on three consecutive possessions, helping to tie the game at 30-30.

But Randolph-Macon rolled off five quick points before the media timeout to take the lead for good at 35-30, extending it to 45-37 after three periods.

Juliana Park only scored three points, but they came at an important juncture, answering a Shenandoah basket to start the fourth period, stretching the margin to nine at 50-41 with seven minutes left. About two minutes later in transition, it was time for Kagey to feed Hatfield, blasting a one-hop pass forty feet down the court to a cutting Cheridan for two. Then, Kagey forced a turnover near the top of the key, was fouled at the basket and made two free throws for a 56-43 lead with 5:03 left, a sequence that sealed the Yellow Jacket win.

Now tied with Randolph for second place in the ODAC at 10-2, the Yellow Jackets look to Saturday's annual "Back To The Hive" event, the women's basketball program's equivalent to Homecoming. Burke knows they are entering the homestretch of their regular season schedule, with their next three games quite winnable (Averett, Eastern Mennonite and Roanoke) if you look at the current standings.

But when the ball is tipped, standings don't matter. Execution does. And one thing Burke doesn't worry about with her team is effort.

"We started slow, and I thought we were peaking after Christmas, and I thought the Washington & Lee game (a 75-50 loss) was a bit of a step back," Burke noted. "But I really think that (loss) has propelled us forward, which I'm glad. Our bounce back has been tested at times, and we're getting much better at it."

Now, instead of having to bounce back, these Yellow Jackets have a chance to continue forward, with seven games left, six of them in conference play, including a home rematch with Randolph, the only other ODAC team to defeat them, on February 11th.

NOTE: There will be an alumni game at Crenshaw Gymnasium at 11:30 Saturday morning. The Randolph-Macon/Averett game will tip at 2pm. At halftime, along with the annual recognition of alumni in attendance, there will be a court dedication ceremony honoring legendary head coach Carroll LaHaye, who retired after the 2019-2020 season. A reception will follow the game in Alumni Gym.

(Jane Elkins drives to the lane during the R-MC victory. She scored seven points in fifteen minutes.)

(Catherine Kagey drives in the third period of the victory. She scored 12 of her 28 points in that frame.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

#d3hoops: Mallory, Mbangue Power Yellow Jackets To Win Over Captains

There were enough side stories for Wednesday night's men's basketball showdown between Randolph-Macon and Christopher Newport to fill Crenshaw Gymnasium, as fans did on this evening.

--Randolph-Macon, #2 in the nation, sought its 57th consecutive home victory
--Christopher Newport, #5 in the nation, not only sought to end the Crenshaw run, but hand the Yellow Jackets a loss for the second straight season.
--Thus, Randolph-Macon sought revenge for a 77-76 overtime loss in Newport News on November 28, 2021.

But, as it turned out, once the ball was tipped, none of that matter. And, despite a slow offensive start by both teams, combining for just three made buckets in their first 21 attempts, what unfolded was simply, truly, a magnificent battle on both sides of the court.

Down three at the half, and by as many as seven, the Yellow Jackets began to finally seize momentum in the game's final seven minutes, highlighted by a Miles Mallory block for the ages as the Yellow Jackets downed the Captains 64-59.

"I'm trying to think, because I've seen that guy make some big-time plays," noted Randolph-Macon head coach Josh Merkel after the win. "His ability, too, to not just block but keep it in play, get it back himself is super special."

The block occurred when, with just under a minute left when Christopher Newport's Ty Henderson battled to the glass, only to see his bank shot never actually bank. The long arm of Mallory pinned the basketball against the backboard, and, using strength and dexterity, the senior grabbed possession, and didn't let go. It was a four-point game at the time, 58-54. 

Then Mallory called for an offensive play which should give him an open look from three at the top of the key. He calmly sinked it to send the White Out crowd at Crenshaw into a frenzy and the Yellow Jackets to their fourteenth win of the season.

While Mallory shined down the stretch, it was a team effort to keep up with Christopher Newport, who led 25-22 at the break and quickly jumped out to a 35-28 lead early in the second half. The Yellow Jackets (6-0 ODAC, 14-1) slowly began to reel the Captains in. This is when junior forward Daniel Mbangue went to work.

Beginning with a block with 15:22 to play, Mbangue scored eight critical points over the next eleven and a half minutes to help the Yellow Jackets finally retake the lead, then begin to build it, ever so slightly.

The other key to the victory? The free throw line. Randolph-Macon couldn't have been pleased with walking off the court at the end of the first half seeing the scoreboard say "1" for the number of fouls called on Christopher Newport. While it's one thing to tell your team at the half to create free throw opportunities, it's another to actually go out and do it.

"We talked about we were taking shots that they wanted us to take," Merkel said of the halftime conversation in the locker room. "We just talked about playing with more force, getting downhill, attacking some of the shot blockers' chests, playing two-man games. Those guys know that they can do it, they played with force before. I like how we played in the second half."

Mallory led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, while Mbangue had 15 points and eight boards, and Josh Talbert added 12 points and five assists.

"He's filling the box score," Merkel said of Mbangue's improvement this season. "His leadership, his belief in himself. The first shot he made is one he's been working on."

Freshman Keishawn Pulley, Jr. (St. Christopher's) played 28 minutes off the bench, and while struggling from the floor, hit all four of his second half free throws and grabbed six big rebounds for Randolph-Macon. Jahn Hines led Christopher Newport with 26 points, while Trey Barber added 15.

The victory ended an eight-day odyssey to begin 2023 that saw the defending Division III National Champions take their best shot from archrival Hampden-Sydney on the road, then ODAC rival Guilford and the Captains in back to back huge home tests. The Yellow Jackets will look to avoid a letdown when they travel to Lynchburg for a 2pm tip on Saturday against the Hornets.

--Rob Witham

(Miles Mallory, #10 left, drives to the rim in the first half of Randolph-Macon's 64-59 win over Christopher Newport Wednesday night at Crenshaw Gymnasium to improve to 14-1 on the season. Photo: RVA Sports Network)