Word of God basketball had to wait a few extra minutes to tip off its 2015-16 campaign, but once the show began, it was easy to see why the Holy Rams are still one of the premiere basketball programs in the state.
Burlington Positive Day School was about 30 minutes late arriving to the gym, and the high-powered host waisted little time jumping on the visitors. Once the dust settled, Word of God (1-0) shot and dunked its way to a 81-61 victory on Tuesday night.
“I think we showed flashes,” first-year Rams coach Brian Clifton said. “I think we can be a very explosive team offensively. We have a very selfless team, which isn’t typical for a team with so much talent.”
Leading that talent pool is New York City transplant Rawle Alkins. The 6-foot-5 guard-forward, who is drawing interest from big-time programs across the country that include the ACC’s N.C. State and UNC, led the Rams with a game-high 25 points. Adding Alkins to a squad that returned six other seniors, including Jaylen Fornes (11 points) and Jalen Harris (10), should make the Rams a must-see team once again.
“We were fortunate where we were returning the best backcourt in North Carolina,” Clifton said. “You add Rawle to that and then Blake (Harris) comes over … we have about five or six seniors who are going to leave their mark on the program. Dequan (Lockamy) and Brandon (Huffman), our two big guys, are still growing, still developing. They are coming back next year, but it’s important for us to make an impact this year.”
Lockamy and Huffman each stand at around 6-9. Those bigs and the backcourt of Fornes and Harris, along with Alkins, give the Holy Rams the opportunity to make that sudden impact. While Clifton noted the team didn’t shoot the ball well and had way too many turnovers in its season opener, Word of God will quickly get a chance to get back on the court and redeem itself, and not just in the state of North Carolina. They will play Bull City Prep based out of Durham Wednesday, play one game in a tournament in Monroe, then hop on a 6 a.m. flight on Friday to Kansas for a two-day tournament.
“We have a lot of basketball ahead,” Clifton said.
Word of God walks into a gym nationally, its reputation precedes it. Clifton wouldn’t have it any other way.
“They handle it pretty well,” he said. “I want more confidence in that - for the right reasons - to embrace that kind of thing.”
In the third quarter, Word of God got a corner three from Alkins followed by a dunk from Harris, putting the Holy Rams ahead 40-22. Harris then got a block on the other end before guard D.K. Simmons hit a three at the buzzer, giving the Rams a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Three who mattered
Rawle Alkins, Word of God: The five-star recruit led the Holy Rams with 25 points, 12 in the fourth quarter.
Jaylen Fornes, Word of God: Fornes first bucket of the night was a deep three-pointer. The senior cooled down a bit, but still posted 11 points for the Holy Rams, including a highlight-reel putback dunk in the fourth quarter.
Kavon Sclarrord, Positive Day School: The guard kept his team in the game, leading the way with 21 points.
By the numbers
10 Number of players who scored at least one point for the Holy Rams.
3 Players who scored in double-digits for Word of God.
7 On the Word of God roster listed at point guard and stand 6’0 or taller.
Why they won
Word of God jumped on PDS early, knocking down a number of long-range shots, then attacking the class. More importantly, the Holy Rams had a balanced attack. Nearly every player who saw time got their name in the scoring book.
“I’d like to see it more,” Clifton said. “If we would have taken better care of the ball, we would have been able to play even more guys.”