GREENSBORO, N.C.- The Randolph men's basketball team returned to the hardwood on Wednesday night in its first action of the New Year at Guilford. The WildCats got out to a quick start in the first half but the Quakers recovered as they went on to win 70-62.
The WildCats started the game on a 9-0 run with all points supplied by Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian). Guilford was able to answer with a big run of its own of 12-0 to go up 12-9. The 'Cats tied the game twice but did not go ahead until Drew Hayden's (Vinton, Va./William Byrd) three-point basket with 8:01 remaining in the half gave Randolph a 19-18 advantage.
The two teams exchanged leads and Guilford tied at 22-22 with 6:13 remaining. A pair of Elijah Ford (Chantilly, Va./Chantilly) free throws upped the WildCats ahead 24-22 but the Quakers would end on a 13-4 run, including seven straight points, to go into halftime ahead 37-28.
The Guilford defense tightened up in the second half as it would not let the WildCats close to less than six points of the lead for more half of the period. It was a 10-point Quaker advantage, 49-39 with 9:35 to go. A 7-0 run by the WildCats got them to within three points and following two Guilford free throws, it was a one-possession contest after a three from Hooper with 7:06 left.
Twice would the 'Cats knot the score up with the final time coming with six minutes remaining after a trey from Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) put the score at 56-56. Randolph would not lay off and looked to take a late lead. Following two free throws by Hayden with 1:07 left, Randolph trailed 64-62. Jaylen Gore's three-pointer with 55 seconds remaining, however, lifted Guilford to a 67-62 lead as a 6-0 run to end the game put the WildCats away.
"What a war that was," said head coach Pete Hamilton after the game. "Extremely physical and gritty from both teams for 40 minutes. Guilford got to a few more balls late and we left a few points on the table but I'm proud of the fight. Guilford was going to key in to clog things up on Brian and Sammy tonight. Brian did a great job playing under control and spreading the ball out with 8 assists and some big time 3s for us in the 2nd half."
Hooper led the way for Randolph with 16 points and also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out three assists. CJ Loving (Madison Heights, Va./Amherst County) put down nine points. Smith added eight points and a season-best eight assists. Hayden finished with eight points and seven boards.
"I thought we played our style well just didn't cash in opportunities we created with our pace," said Hamilton. "Drew played a great role for us off the bench. He's one of our more physical players and he gave us spurts tonight we needed with his 8 points and 7 boards."
Overall team shooting percentage went to Guilford which was 25-of-67 (37.3%) to Randolph's 20-of-57 (35.1%). The WildCats fared better at the charity stripe as they converted 15-of-19 attempts for 78.9% which was the second-best to date this season.
Rebounds favored Guilford 44-40. The Quakers led in points off turnovers (12-4), second-chance points (15-12), points in the paint (36-24), fastbreak points (10-2), and bench points (26-16).
Randolph will look to bounce back this Saturday when it welcomes Virginia Wesleyan to the RAD. Tip off will be at 2:00 p.m.