STAUNTON – Things will certainly get tougher as the season progresses for the Robert E. Lee boys’ basketball team. For right now, everything is just fine.
The Fighting Leemen made it five straight wins to start the year on Thursday night, rolling to a 75-45 victory over visiting Wilson Memorial at the Paul Hatcher Gymnasium.
It was the defense that set the pace. Lee held the Green Hornets scoreless for the first 7:40 of the contest while racing out to a 19-0 advantage. Jarvis Vaughan had six points on the offensive end, including a pair of two-handed dunks.
“I thought our defense was fantastic in the first quarter,” said Lee High head coach Jarrett Hatcher. “They didn’t get a lot of good looks and we really didn’t give up anything. As the game went on, I thought the kids played very well for the most part on the defensive end.”
Zay Brown ended the Wilson drought with a layup late in the opening quarter. And for just a little while, it looked like the Hornets might make it a game.
Sparked by eight first-half points from Ryan Pierce, Wilson Memorial pulled to within 30-17 late in the second quarter. Baskets from Emmanuel Johnson, Tyrese Haliburton and Darius George in the final minute worked the margin back to 19 at the break.
A big third quarter by George helped put the game away. The Marshall University-bound senior scored 14 of his game-high 29 points to make it 57-29 heading into the final eight minutes.
From there, both coaches emptied the benches and Lee was able to celebrate its’ fifth win of the year.
“A lot of guys have been able to get on the floor and I’ve been able to experiment with some combinations,” said Hatcher. “Settling down and trying to get a rotation is important.”
Vaughan finished with 14 and Blaize Velvin added 12 points in the victory for Lee High.
Even though the Hornets lost their fourth straight to open the season, head coach Scott Crist has seen his squad taking some steps toward improving against tough competition.
“We’re very young and very small, and haven’t had our full squad together due to injuries and sickness,” said the second-year Wilson coach. “We still haven’t found any continuity in our unit, but I’m hopeful. I was proud of the way the guys fought.”
Brown, the only player dressed for the Hornets over six-foot tall, poured in 16 points in the loss. He battled hard down low against the taller Lee defenders.
“Zay was the bright spot tonight,” said Crist of his 6-foot-3 sophomore. “I was very pleased with Zay’s mindset and his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.”
Pierce, the lone senior who played for the Hornets, ended the contest with 12. Chance Church added nine points off the bench.
The JV game was also decided by 30 points, with Lee High claiming a 65-35 win. Nicholas Jones was the top scorer for the Fighting Leemen with 12 points. Cobey Rothgeb led the Wilson Memorial scoring with eight.