Updated Fri, Jan 24, 2014 5:43 pm
Rio Grande’s magical six-game winning streak abruptly came to a halt on Thursday night in Kentucky, but the RedStorm are not finished fighting for the Mid-South Conference just yet.
RedStorm head coach Ken French has stressed all season that his game plan is to take the season one game at a time. French said via Rio Basketball’s Twitter account, “Have to bounce back #BOL,” on Thursday night after his RedStorm squad lost a heartbreaker to Pikeville. French’s motto of “Believe or Leave” is a strong testament for his players to rebound on Saturday afternoon in the Dome Gymnasium in Virgina, as they go to war with the Bluefield Rams (9-6, 3-5).
Free throw success has guided Rio throughout the month of January but the RedStorm bit the dust in that department on Thursday night. The normally sharp-shooting RedStorm missed 12 foul shots on 40 attempts. Pikeville’s offensive dominance proved to be too tough for Rio Grande as five Bears players demolished Rio’s defensive schemes and scored in double-figures in the route.
Poor performances from Rio’s terrific trio of star players ultimately doomed the RedStorm. Former MSC Player of the week, Josh Reagan, fouled out of the game after only 22 minutes of action. Current MSC Player of the Week, D.D. Joiner, also failed to find his groove and finished the night with only six points. Jermaine Warmack was non-existent on Thursday night, shooting 0-3 from the field. The senior guard typically has ice in his veins when shooting from the free throw line, but the senior guard could not find the net on a pair of free throws.
Saturday’s matchup can make or break Rio Grande’s season.
Despite only winning three of its past seven games, the Rams have the talent to defeat the RedStorm if Rio does not arrive mentally ready to play. Kearston Marion leads the Rams in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game. The RedStorm had a tough time guarding a pair of skilled guards on Thursday night in Bruce Reed and Keala King. They are susceptible to give up a substantial of points on Saturday if they do not apply better defensive pressure on Bluefield’s playmakers.
“It’s definitely hard to play against a MSC team on the road but we just need to put the Pikeville game behind us and focus on Bluefield,” Reagan said. “They’re really solid in all aspects.”
Bluefield has the potential to pull off an upset if it manages to contain three RedStorm playmakers.
Reagan, who has averaged 16.4 points in the seven games he has played, is known for his high-energy style of play, but that spunk has caused him to foul out in crucial times. Rio had to play without Reagan in its victory over Shawnee State after a scuffle landed its forward on the bench for the remainder of the contest. Rio Grande was forced to play a second overtime versus Campbellsville without its star player and had to compete without him down the stretch in the Pikeville loss.
Bluefield will also need to contain Joiner who is deadly from behind the arc and keep Warmack away from the free-throw line if it wants to secure a home victory.
Phillip Hertz leads the way in scoring for the RedStorm, averaging 14.3 points per game, but he will need help from Reagan, Joiner, and Warmack in order for Rio Grande to get back on track and battle its way back to first place in the conference.
The RedStorm and the Rams will battle on the hardwood in Bluefield, Va. at 4 p.m on Saturday.