Playing without leading scorer Montre’ Cash, the Averett men’s basketball team saw a bevy of role players step up in his absence on Sunday against Roanoke College.
Though the Maroons led much of the contest, the Cougars went ahead for good with 3:18 to play on a putback layup from sophomore guard KeShawn Lewis, who started in Cash’s point guard spot. Three free throws and a block from sophomore Isaiah Jones in the final 20 seconds preserved the lead in the game’s waning moments, helping Averett secure at 60-55 victory at the Grant Center.
Cash developed a sickness late last week and briefly visited the hospital to receive fluids, head coach David Doino said. The Cougars hope to have him back by the middle of this week, though they do not play again until Dec. 9 against Ferrum.
Without Cash, the Cougars had to fight from behind but ultimately proved how well-rounded the team can be and improved to 5-2 this season.
“It was definitely big not playing with him, but with the squad we have here, we have the mentality of ‘Next man up,’” senior forward Tim Henry said. “Him going down brought opportunities for the next player to come up.”
Lewis, for starters, tallied six points in a season-high 20 minutes. He also dished out five assists without turning the ball over. Fellow guard Jamal Forde chipped in eight bench points in 19 minutes.
“[Cash] has probably been our best player through six games,” Doino said, “and to have other guys step up and do what they did tonight was a great team effort, and we’re very proud of those guys.”
The Maroons (4-3), however, did not make it easy.
Keyed by senior point guard Caleb Jordan and sharpshooting wings in Joe Mikalauskas and Tripp Greene, Roanoke College took a 27-23 lead into halftime. At the break, the Maroons had eight field goals, and six of those were 3-pointers.
The Cougars couldn’t keep pace from distance—Corey Baldwin’s trey was the team’s only such connection from the outside in the first 20 minutes—but they remained within striking distance because of Henry’s 12-point first half.
“I thought the first half, we got outworked,” Doino said. “I thought they had the energy, they were playing their style, they were more physical than us. In the second half we got back to what we do.”
Jones, after notching just two points in the first half, scored seven points in the first three minutes after halftime to keep the game from getting away.
“We start our offense inside-out, so we got it to Tim and got it going,” Jones said, “but coach said at halftime, ‘We need somebody else to get it going,’ so I knew indirectly he was talking to me. … Really, once they had to [find] me and Tim, then everything else is easier for everybody else and that’s when we start playing our team ball and playing really good.”
Henry finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Jones tallied 15 points and nine boards of his own.
It was a Forde 3-pointer that got the Cougars to within one at 52-51, and Lewis’ putback gave Averett the lead with 3:18 left. Both teams went scoreless until Henry found space for a layup with 58 seconds to play.
Jones added two free throws with 20 seconds left, making it 57-52, but a Green 3-pointer kept the game tight. Jones then made one of two foul shots after another intentional foul, and Jordan raced the other way hoping for a quick two points. His layup attempt was blocked by Jones—his third of the game.
“He has that knack defensively,” Doino said of Jones. “That’s been something I’ve been extremely proud of him [for]. Even though he hasn’t shot the ball well in every game, his defense has been pretty consistent for us—and we’re going to need it to be because we put him on pretty much the best player every night. Very proud of him and how he finished down the stretch.”
Jones’ block caromed out to Averett’s Raymond Bullock III, who tossed an outlet pass to Vince Contreras streaking the other way.
Contreras laid it in as time expired for the final five-point margin, the bow on top of an early December comeback victory.