ROCKINGHAM — Monday’s loss to Rocky Mount Prep at the MLK Classic in Durham marked the first time since 2008-09 that the Richmond boys basketball team has dropped more than nine games in a season.
The Raiders made things interesting in the final seconds, as freshman Caleb Hood and junior Malik Stanback scored six straight points to bring the team within four, but Rocky Mount Prep sealed its 78-72 victory when junior forward Toyaz Solomon got behind the full-court press and slammed it home with two hands.
Stanback led the Raiders with 15 points while Hood chipped in a career-high 14.
“We jumped on them 10-0 in the beginning, but then we had a lapse in transition where five of our guys didn’t get back and that got them going,” first-year head coach Donald Pettigrew said. “We’ve just got to take advantage of those opportunities when they’re there, and do a better job of taking care of the ball.”
Richmond (5-10, 1-5 SAC) is still trying to find its identity under Pettigrew, whose preferred style of play — although he was an assistant in the program for 16 seasons — is the total opposite of what players had gotten used to in recent years.
In 2015, former head coach David Laton — with the help of former assistant Keith Parsons — introduced what’s known as “The System” to the basketball program. Instead of taking their time and running offensive sets, players were strongly encouraged to shoot the ball within the first 10 seconds of the possession.
“Our goal is to get 80 shots (a game) or more,” Laton said prior to the 2016 season. “If we’re getting 80-100 shots a game, there’s enough shots to go around for everybody.”
But now that Laton has moved on to Marlboro Academy (S.C.), where he coaches both the junior varsity and varsity boys basketball teams, there aren’t as many shots to go around.
Pettigrew did away with “The System” once he was hired last June and went back to a more traditional way of playing basketball: setting up plays on the offensive end, getting the ball in the paint, finding the open man, etc.
“We’ve got to do a better job of moving the ball and making the extra pass. We’ve got to make the extra passes when guys are open,” Pettigrew said. “We don’t want a good shot, we want the best shot.”
The first-year coach has also stressed the importance of the team’s efforts on defense. The Raiders — in large part to the change in style of play — aren’t giving up as many points per game this season (62.9) as they did last season (88), but they’re still learning how to be effective in all defensive sets.
“If we can’t score, we want to stop teams from scoring,” Pettigrew added. “I think we’re making some strides (on defense) but we’re still having lapses that we shouldn’t be having. We’ve got to hold each other accountable.”
Things may not be going the way he would’ve liked them to in his first season, as Richmond is on a three-game losing streak and is currently tied for last place in the conference, but Pettigrew believes his team can make a run in the latter part of the season if every player believes in one another.
Richmond has a chance to start that turnaround Friday night when it travels to conference foe Purnell Swett, whom it defeated 77-65 early last month behind a combined 46 points from junior Xavier Pettigrew, junior Malik Stanback and senior Da’Shaun Wallace.
“It’s a learning process because we’re doing a lot of stuff different. We’ve just got to keep grinding,” Pettigrew said.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected]dailyjournal.com. For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.