When Robert C. Byrd last took the court prior to Friday’s clash with No. 5 Westside, the Flying Eagles did something they’re not accustomed to — spent the majority of the game against Bridgeport in a zone.
The Indians had early offensive success in that contest, all but forcing RCB coach Bill Bennett to take his top-ranked team out of its traditional defense.
The Renegades had no such luck in a battle of Top 5 Class AA teams, starting slow and struggling to generate offense all night, as the Eagles cruised to a 76-54 win.
For the game, Westside (12-4) made just 18-of-59 shots for 30 percent shooting.
“Overall, they didn’t get a lot of clean looks and when they were open, we generally had somebody getting there pretty quick and closing out on them,” RCB coach Bill Bennett said. “Our kids had been pointing to this game for a while, and they came out and responded.”
RCB (16-0) never trailed, and built an 11-2 lead just 3:20 into the game after Cameron Carvelli’s runner banked off the top of the backboard and somehow dropped.
When Devonti Birch made his second 3-pointer of the first quarter, it gave the Eagles a 23-9 lead after one quarter.
Through 8 minutes, six RCB players had made at least one field goal, while the Renegades shot only 3 of 12 and were outrebounded, 11-5.
“We didn’t start out very good, but that’s a credit to them,” Westside coach Nick Cook said. “They played really good defense and got out in transition for some easy buckets. We dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of.”
Following Jordan Browning’s follow-up basket early in the second quarter, RCB went on a 7-2 run to take a 34-13 lead 4:18 before halftime.
Kevin Steele started the surge with a trey, while Luke Dyer added to it with a jumper and Justin Noble capped it with a layup.
Westside drew to within 40-22 at halftime, as Levi Lambert scored nine of his 14 points in the final 4 minutes of the second quarter.
But outside of Justin Cogar’s layup to begin the second half, Westside never got the deficit inside of 18 points in the second half.
Instead, Noble, Steele, Birch and Malfregeot each scored inside and Dyer added a basket with 2:43 remaining in the third quarter to complete a 10-1 run and make it 59-32.
“We were lackadaisical all night long for some reason. I don’t know why,” Cook said. “You’d think playing the No. 1 AA team in the state that’s undefeated at their place, you’d have a little more emotion than what my kids had.”
The Eagles made 32-of-59 shots (54 percent), and dished out 20 assists, led by Carvelli’s five.
“We always take good shots. That’s one of our pet peeves — taking bad shots that can get us in a slump,” Birch said. “When we take good shots and make them, our defense gets a lot better. It’s amazing what we can do and how we work.”
Birch led all players with 21 points, while Steele added 16 on 7-of-9 shooting.
Noble posted a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, while adding four blocks, including a pair of highlight-reel worthy swats in the second half.
Dyer added nine points, while Carvelli and Malfregeot scored six apiece.
“I didn’t think they got very many good looks at the basket in the first half,” Bennett said. “We contested everything and Justin was a force in the middle the entire night.”
Justin Kenneda led Westside with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Lambert followed with 14 points. Browning contributed seven points and eight boards in defeat.
Westside’s Corey Bowles, who entered the game averaging 18.3 points, scored five points and missed all eight of his field-goal attempts. Cogar was held to six points despite entering the game averaging 15.1.
“We did a good job on (Bowles),” Bennett said. “I know he’s been playing with a torn meniscus the whole season and I’m sure that affects him, because he’s an outstanding player.”
Will Fox 0-8 0-0 0, Corey Bowles 0-8 5-8 5, Justin Kenneda 5-13 3-3 16, Levi Lambert 6-12 2-3 14, Justin Cogar 3-8 0-0 6, Larry Cook 1-2 1-2 4, Bryan Choate 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Browning 3-4 1-1 7, Scott Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, Bryce Robinson 0-0 2-2 2, Dalton McComas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-59 14-19 54.
Robert C. Byrd (16-0)
Cameron Carvelli 2-7 2-2 6, Luke Dyer 4-7 0-1 9, Kevin Steele 7-9 1-2 16, Devonti Birch 8-16 3-3 21, Justin Noble 6-12 2-2 14, Julian Malfregeot 3-4 0-0 6, Alex Banko 2-4 0-0 4, Ronnie Fox 0-0 0-0 0, Dante’ Speas 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter Vanhorn 0-0 0-0 0, Jacob George 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 32-59 8-10 76.
W 9 13 17 15 — 54
RCB 23 17 21 15 — 76
3-point goals — W: 4 (Kenneda 3, Cook) RCB: 4 (Birch 2, Dyer, Steele). Fouled out — none.؆