Four minutes into the second half of Monday night's clash against Westfield, the Robinson boys basketball team was fading fast. A 34-23 halftime lead suddenly turned into a 34-36 deficit, as the visiting Bulldogs chewed through the home team's zone defense nearly every trip down the court. Even while Westfield supporters puffed their chests and pumped their fists defiantly into the air, Robinson players appeared strangely unfazed.
Perhaps that's because they had their opponents right where they wanted them.
“We don't panic when we lose the lead,” Robinson coach Brian Nelson said. “I almost feel like it refocuses us a little bit. When a team bounces back in, it's like a reminder that, 'Oh, we haven't been playing our best. We need to get back to doing the right things.'”
Just as they have done many times this season, the Rams flipped a switch and regained control, allowing Westfield (6-7, 0-2 Concorde) to score only two points during the final four minutes of the third quarter. Robinson (11-3, 2-0 Concorde) eventually held on for a 67-62 overtime victory, the team's 10th win in its last 11 outings.
A look at Monday's box score doesn't reveal anything glaring on the Robinson page, but it tells the story of a squad built more on balance than on any one star player. While 47 of Westfield's 62 points were tallied by three players, Robinson saw four double-digit scorers fill the bulk of its total. The performance was characteristic of a team that seems to find a different leading scorer every time it takes the floor.
“No one's in the mindset that they're going to get 20 [points] a night,” said Robinson junior guard Matt Fall, who led his team with a season-high 16 points on Monday. “We've got a core group of guys that are all capable of getting eight to 12 points a night, and really that balance is hard for people to scout against. That's one of our advantages for sure.”
It's a change of tune for the defending Concorde District champions, who relied heavily on region standouts Robert Pillow and Tristian Crenshaw for points last season. The two seniors buoyed the Rams with their scoring prowess on many occasions last year, but when their strokes found more iron than net, their team struggled to stay afloat.
No one shoulders that kind of burden on offense this season. When one player struggles, a teammate always seems to elevate his game to keep the Rams from falling behind.
“Our strength is definitely having five or six guys that can score on any given night,” said senior forward Nick Bynum, who put up 15 points against Westfield. “If one person's not doing what they usually do, then someone else can step up and score the points that we need.”
That next-man-up mentality came alive on Monday when Robinson's leading scorer, Nate Hackett, managed just six points after scoring five in the first quarter. In addition to solid contributions from Fall and Bynum, junior guard Jared Steen nailed four three-pointers to walk away with 12 points, and Joe Bynum broke out with a career-high 13 points. Joe Bynum, who totaled eight points in his previous four games, came off the bench to receive major minutes in the wake of senior post player Keegan Rudy's ankle injury suffered against Centreville last Friday. The junior reserve came up big in overtime's final sequence, knocking down a pair of free throws before grabbing a defensive rebound on the other end and then connecting on another pair to seal his team's victory.
Robinson's unpredictable approach might be its greatest asset, but finding which pieces fit best together isn't always an easy task.
“It's a little bit challenging, to be honest, to make sure that we get the right five on the floor,” Nelson said. “Every night's like mix and match; you've got to find the right combination. Our rotation isn't maybe as set as a lot of teams might be at this point in the season, but so far that's actually been a strength for us. When one guy's having a rough night, we've had the ability to get somebody off the bench, play big minutes and make big plays.”
The Rams' scoring balance is evident in their season totals. Through the season's first 14 games, Hackett averages 10.75 points per contest, Nick Bynum averages 10.15 and Steen averages 10.07. Opponents looking to shut down one guy on the defensive end will have to pick their poison.
As Concorde contenders Chantilly and Herndon loom in the deepening district schedule, Nelson says he won't be counting on just one of his players to pour on the points.
“We don't care who scores, we just care that we score.”