Rudolph’s career-high 28 points lifts Handley past Wood 88-81
Posted: January 19, 2013
WINCHESTER — Without his clear plastic face shield, Handley senior guard Jake Rudolph might not look nearly as intimidating as he used to.
That’s OK — he’d much rather have the scary-good shooting stroke.
After the better-breathing Rudolph first helped breathe life into his team with back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter, Rudolph answered a furious James Wood rally that had tied the game with two minutes and 15 seconds left with two consecutive clutch threes to help send the Judges to an 88-81 Northwestern District victory over the Colonels Friday night at Shirley Gymnasium.
“He hasn’t been shooting the ball well, but I thought he took his time tonight and did some things we were working on,” said Handley boys’ basketball coach Tommy Dixon of Rudolph, who scored a career-high 28 points and hit his two 3-pointers just after James Wood had tied the game at 76 on the strength of a 21-5 run. “He found a rhythm tonight.”
That rhythm was forged in large part by some work in the backyard.
Rudolph began wearing his shield on Dec. 29 against Spotswood, one game after fracturing his nose against Harrisonburg. Though he hit four 3-pointers against Spotswood, Rudolph said he really hadn’t felt comfortable shooting since, because the shield was pinching his nose and hampering his breathing.
But in the backyard, no such shield is needed while shooting “about a thousand” shots a day with his father Mark. He said his father knows just what to do to get Rudolph’s game back in gear.
And during warm-ups, that and the naked face finally had Rudolph comfortable again.
“In warm-ups I could tell I was breathing easier, and it just took a lot of pressure off to be honest,” Rudolph said. “I just felt I was ready to go tonight.”
Handley (13-3, 3-1 Northwestern District) needed every bit of Rudolph’s outside shooting, because James Wood (7-10, 0-4) was more than ready to go from the opening tip.
Hanging in Shirley Gymnasium Friday was a picture of Hunter Crane, and before the opening tip the Colonel players came together near the basket by the sign and knelt in prayer for the James Wood senior who died Tuesday in a single-car accident.
The Colonels said afterward they were playing for him, and they played relentlessly. James Wood hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter en route to a 23-15 lead after eight minutes, and the Colonels built that lead up to 31-17 with 5:57 left in the first half.
But Cameron Jackson (23 points) put back his own miss 19 seconds later, than Rudolph hit two 3-pointers 30 seconds apart to bring Handley within 31-25 with 4:35 left in the second quarter.
That started a stretch in which Handley began moving the ball on offense and getting it inside where it could get some easy baskets, while at the same time James Wood cooled off. Handley closed the first half on a 21-5 run, with Tre Brown’s floater with one second left giving Handley a 38-36 lead at the break, its first lead since the opening minute.
The Judges maintained that style of play in the second half, and they seemed to be in complete control when a Rudolph bucket with 5:44 left made it 71-55.
But the Colonels fast-paced, 3-point-heavy system is never completely out of the game, and the combination of their pressure defense and outside marksmanship got the home crowd roaring. They were at their loudest when Cam Butler (16 points) hit a 3-pointer well beyond the 3-point arc with Rudolph coming at him with 2:15 left.
James Wood’s momentum was quickly ended though. Darion Robinson (15 points) was fouled with 2:06 left, hitting the first free throw and missing the second. Brown grabbed the rebound and kicked out to Rudolph, who buried a 3-pointer before turning and screaming with 2:00 left.
Then, with 1:36 left, Rudolph nailed what turned out to be the game-winning 3-pointer to send Handley into a frenzy with the score 83-76 with 1:36 left. James Wood would continue to battle, but got no closer than five points.
“James Wood never gave up,” Rudolph said. “But I just wanted to get the ball in my hands. I was feeling good, and I knew if I got the opportunity I could knock some shots down. Luckily I did. That was definitely a big spot for me.”
Dixon gave credit to James Wood for its shooting, and credited his team for adjusting.
“We started getting the ball down inside and getting some easy baskets, and we moved the ball a little better,” Dixon said. “At one point we were playing at the pace they wanted to play at and we talked about playing at our pace.”
Butler, who was second to Peyton Crickman (22 points) on his own team in scoring, said he was glad to see the Colonels give the effort they did after losing three in a row coming in.
“We stayed with it and kept fighting until the end, and we just came up a little short,” Butler said. “I’m proud of the team.
“We wanted to show some respect to [Crane], and we’re just going to try and get ‘W’s for him.”
Given the emotion of the week, Colonels coach Al Smith said he couldn’t ask for more.
“The effort that our guys gave tonight, I’ll take that every night,” he said. “They played extremely hard. To me, the way our guys played tonight was inspirational.”
Ryland Williams added 15 points for the Colonels. Michael Carter and Nick Foura were out with one-game suspensions for team reasons and will be back for the next game.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1