It wasn’t Rolesville’s girls basketball team’s first win that tipped off sophomore guard Jaylin Powell that the Rams might have a good season. Instead, it was the team’s first loss of the year.
The season-opener brought the second-year program’s overall record to 0-22, but Powell, who was there for the Rams’ winless inaugural season, saw improvement. Rolesville would start the season 0-4 before getting the school’s first varsity basketball win on Dec. 2, a 48-47 win over Panther Creek.
“I don’t even know how to explain it,” Powell said. “I was so happy. After our first win I was just like, ‘It’s going to be a good season.’ Even after our first loss, against Wake Forest, I thought it was going to be a good season because we only lost by 3. Compared to last year, it’s a big difference.”
That mindset, one of staying positive and focused on growing with each day, has been instilled in the Rams program since Day One. A year later, both Rolesville’s boys and girls teams have climbed their way into the middle of the Greater Neuse River Conference standings.
But while losses piled on last year, they weren’t taken lightly and it wasn’t always easy.
“Last season it was really frustrating,” Powell said. “We didn’t have a lot of girls that had really played before and we were all freshmen last year playing varsity, so it was really tough on all of us. I think after last season to this season we improved a lot, especially just maturing and winning.”
The Rolesville boys’ first win came a few games later – in the Rams’ conference opener against Southeast Raleigh on Dec. 11 – and was also a one-point win.
“Any win in this conference is really huge, and we were very happy to get it,” Rolesville boys coach Tommy Moore said. “It meant a lot to our school and to our kids.”
The learning curve has been steep for the Rams, who played with all freshmen and sophomores last season. A year later, they are still undersized against many opponents.
“I think they learned the speed of the game was a little bit faster than what they were accustomed to in middle school and then those that had played a little bit of JV or whatever they had played up to that point, so I think the speed was probably the biggest thing; and then the size and the strength factor,” Moore said. “We’re not there yet with either one of those things, but we’re making progress.”
There are still moments, like when the girls team (9-14, 5-8 Greater Neuse River 4A as of Tuesday) was held without a field goal for an entire quarter in the Rams’ home loss to Clayton on Feb. 3. The drought allowed the visiting Comets to turn a one-point game into a double-digit margin that the Rams were never able to close.
First-year girls coach Clinton Williams has tried to build on the foundation set by the Rams’ former coach Tosha Pullen with a group that is a year older and wiser.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Williams said. “I just wanted to get better game by game and just go out and compete each game. Moving forward we need to focus on just growing and getting more game experience and just trying to build game to game and learning how to win and learning how to continue to win.”
But while many start-up programs have the benefit of having a core group of players that return in subsequent years, the Rams girls returned just three players from last year’s team – Powell, and fellow sophomores Morgan Brown and Oluchi Chukwunyere. Four transfer juniors and a trio of freshmen round out the roster.
“I didn’t expect us to do this good. I’m real proud of the team,” Powell said after the loss to Clayton. “Even though we got a loss today, we can come out next game and win. It just comes down to practice and being prepared. A lot of people put us down this year and last year, but I use it as motivation because when we get to our senior year we’re going to be great and I wouldn’t be surprised if we make it far in the playoffs.”
The boys team returned six players from last year’s team, but the entire group has continued to work hard in practice, something Moore has taken note of and rewarded by deciding to play all 13 of his players in the game during their Feb. 3 matchup with the Comets.
After all, Moore said, this is bigger than wins and losses for a boys team that was 6-17 overall and 5-8 in the conference as of Tuesday.
“I just want them to play as hard as they can with the best attitude possible and be the best teammate they can,” said Moore, who also serves as the school’s athletic director. “That’s the best experience that a high school kid can have. If they’ll go through their high school season giving those three things, they’ll get some positive things out of it. And that’s what we try to do every year. I’d be lying if I said we got that every day, but we certainly have gotten that more days than we didn’t, and that’s a really good feeling for us at this point.”