Matanzas basketball players Alex Davis and Rya’sir “Rock” Jefferson were excited about the Jan. 17 game at Flagler Palm Coast, perhaps too excited, according to their coach.
Davis, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, was playing in his first game of the season after being ineligible through the first semester. He and his teammates had been anticipating his return to the lineup all season. Junior guard Jefferson was hyped because he had played for FPC as a freshman and sat out last season after transferring to Matanzas.
Davis’ return to the lineup and Jefferson’s return to his former school were both successful. Jefferson scored a game-high 28 points and Davis finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Pirates defeated the Bulldogs for the second year in a row, 72-62.
But both of them might have been nervous early, Matanzas coach Henry Robinson said. Davis got into early foul trouble and Jefferson started out cold before scoring 21 points in the second half as the Pirates began to stretch a one-point halftime lead.
“Alex has been talking about this game the last two and a half weeks,” Robinson said. “He was very excited, a little too excited. That’s why he got in foul trouble.”
Davis and 6-foot-7 freshman Henry Robinson Jr. expect to cause opponents trouble inside the rest of the season. And with teams having to double up on one of the big men, shooters Jefferson and Tariq Shakir expect to get more open looks.
Having Alex back changes the whole dynamic of the team. We’re going to shake things up in the district tournament.”
— HENRY ROBINSON, Matanzas boys basketball coach
“Having Alex back changes the whole dynamic of the team,” Robinson Sr. said. “We’re going to shake things up in the district tournament.”
Robinson Jr. finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds and was thrilled to finally play in a game alongside Davis.
“It felt good to have my brother back on the court,” Robinson Jr. said. “We’ve been saying all season, ‘When Alex comes back, when Alex comes back.’ It really took defenders off of me. Now you have to focus on me and Alex. I’m really excited about what’s going to happen the rest of the season.”
The Pirates won for the fifth time in six games to improve to 8-10. They were scheduled to host Oakleaf on Jan. 19 and Cocoa on Jan. 20.
Jameer Clark led the Bulldogs (8-10) with 17 points, but he did not have a good shooting night, FPC coach Michael Talley said. Matt Rodriguez added 11 points with three 3-pointers for the Bulldogs, while Anthony Hampton and Caumarion Lang scored 10 points apiece.
I started here (at FPC), so this game was everything for me. This was my moment.”
— RYA’SIR “ROCK” JEFFERSON, Matanzas junior guard
FPC led 28-26 before Robinson Jr. hit a 3-point shot from beyond half court at the halftime buzzer to put the Pirates up 29-28. The sore was tied at 43 before Matanzas’ Malik Murray hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter and Robinson Jr. added two free throws to put the Pirates up for good at 48-43 entering the fourth quarter.
“They kind of wore us down at the end,” Talley said. “And having crucial turnovers late hurt. Turnovers will kill you, especially when you’re playing a talented team that has good shooters and also has some size.”
A dunk by Robinson Jr. with 2:34 left put Matanzas up 68-56. Another dunk by Davis a minute later gave the Pirates their largest lead of the game at 70-57.
Robinson Jr. scored nine of his points in the fourth quarter. Jefferson connected on five of nine 3-point attempts. He had three in the third quarter.
“Rock was really shaky in the first half,” Robinson Sr. said. “I said, ‘The problem is you’re too amped up. Settle down and you'll score 20 in the second half.’ And he did.”
Jefferson said his teammates told him they were going to look for him from the start.
“The first half I was short on my shots,” he said. “But my teammates and coaches told me to keep shooting. Everybody around me believes in me, and I believe in them too. I started here (at FPC), so this game was everything for me. This was my moment.”