Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman is used to having tall players scoring in the paint, but not this year. This season, against stiff competition, the Ravens are the perpetually undersized with point guard Mike Okauru the tallest starter at 6-foot-4.
But it didn’t matter on Friday night.
The Ravens swarmed Voyager Academy senior Jay Huff, a 6-foot-11 Virginia recruit, and played gritty team defense to a 85-64 nonconference win, blowing open a close first half.
Ravenscroft’s plan was to put pressure on Voyager’s ballhandlers, including highlight-reel passer Chance Greene, front Huff in the post and then double him when he caught the ball. To the tune of 14 steals, it worked.
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“Our defensive pressure hurt them, I think. We turned them over and got layups on the other end,” Ravenscroft coach Kevin Billerman said. “I thought it was a very good game for us defensively.”
Ravenscroft (7-3) led 39-37 at halftime when Voyager Academy (11-1) switched to a zone, hoping to tilt momentum back to the Vikings. It backfired though, as the Ravens picked it apart with 3s and layups. It was 67-50 after the third quarter.
A taller Ravenscroft team may have not been as comfortable against the zone, but a lineup full of players with guard intangibles – all eight players in the rotation are listed as guards – felt right at home.
“We had to change our plays completely (this season) because we don’t have a dominant force (in the post),” Okauru said. “Now, we’re just relying on the guards.”
They said it
Voyager Academy coach Mike Huff saw the loss as helpful for his team, which has title aspirations in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A classification.
“It’s disappointing to lose, but at the same time I’m not that disappointed because we did get to expose some weakness and see how we can better,” Huff said. “You start thinking you’re pretty good when you’re 11-0 and you’re beating people by 40 and 50 points. This is a chance for guys to say ‘OK, well now we understand it a little be when we say we’ve got to get better.’ ”
Three who mattered
Jay Huff, Voyager Academy: Despite foul trouble, he had 19 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.
Mike Okauru, Ravenscroft: Led all scorers with 23 points, adding six assists.
Tyler Williams, Ravenscroft: Came off the bench with 19 points and provided key defense on Huff. Williams is listed as 6-foot-1 while Huff is 6-foot-11.
“I didn’t really change my style of play. I just played hard and made sure I contained him,” Williams said. “Coach will put me on anybody because I think my defensive ability is up there.”
By the numbers
7: Assists by Voyager’s Greene, who added 11 points.
5: Steals by Ravenscroft’s Tommy Corchiani, who was the help defender used most often to double Huff.
16: Points by Ian DuBose, who got rolling in the fourth quarter and ended with seven rebounds.
7: Points by Voyager’s Colin Faucette in a two-minute span in the third quarter. It was his second game of the year, still coming back from an ankle injury.
10: Points by Ravenscroft’s Chris Barnette, whose main contribution was guarding Greene and limiting his 3-point looks.
12:30: Ravenscroft will play Asheville’s Carolina Day at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The short turnaround is designed to have the team ready for the N.C. Independent Schools Association 3A tournament, which has three rounds in three days.
Ravenscroft girls roll
In the earlier game, the Ravens’ Madison Taylor outscored the competition by herself as Ravenscroft defeated Voyager Academy 81-16. Taylor had 25 of those points.