Lawrence (Bud) Pollard is sick of watching his Thomas Jefferson boys basketball team fall short against elite opposition and he has a plan to fix those issues. It doesn’t include benching any starters or scrapping his offensive sets.
“I might get my [Rick] Pitino on: white shoes, white tie, white sneakers,” joked Pollard, who often wears sweat suits on the sidelines. “I have to try something different.”
Pollard was joking – kind of.
Last Thursday’s 69-63 home loss to CHSAA powerhouse St. Raymond was frustrating because it followed a familiar pattern for the Orange Wave: play well in spurts, struggle late and fall short. They came out sluggish, fell behind by seven points early in the second half, only to rally to retake the lead, 44-41, on Thaddeus Hall’s 3-pointer. The Ravens, though, ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run and made 10-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter while Jefferson missed four important ones.
“We had a lot of chances,” Pollard lamented. “On our home court, we can’t miss free throws.”
Even so, Jefferson had plenty of opportunities to get over the hump down the stretch. If it wasn’t a failed defensive stop or a bad shot, it was a botched layup or missed open shot. After Daniel Dingle gave St. Ray’s a 60-58 lead with 2:10 left, Hall (18 points) missed 3-of-4 free throws and later back-rimmed an open 3-pointer that would’ve drawn Jefferson even.
With 25.4 seconds left and the Ravens (5-3) clinging to a two-point lead, Turpin missed the front-end of a 1-and-1, but the Orange Wave corralled the offensive rebound, only the Manhattan-bound Grace missed from in close.
“We’re really good against average teams, we play OK against the good teams,” Pollard said. “But OK against good teams is not enough to win. We have to play two halves.”
In Jefferson’s three losses, to Christ the King, Lincoln and St. Raymond, that has yet to happen.
Pollard remained optimistic Jefferson’s luck will eventually turn, possibly as soon as this week when it travels to Binghamton, N.Y. for the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic. The Orange Wave opens with Mesa High School (Ariz.) and Arizona State-bound point guard Jahii Carson, ranked eighth at his position by Scout.com.
“We need that,” Pollard said. “We can be together, bond a little bit. The good part about it is we’re not going to Puerto Rico or Florida somewhere where guys can go swimming and hang out. We’re up in Binghamton. It’s gonna be pretty cold, so we can just focus on basketball and spend some time together, get away from all the nonsense.”