Not much sticks out in the dimly lit gym at Robinson Secondary School. Wooden bleachers funnel toward the court on all sides and “Home of the Rams,” is scrawled across the walls above them in navy. During games, an appropriately enthusiastic P.A. announcer with an appropriately loud microphone calls out scorers, their points tallied on well-kept scoreboards on the wall and hanging over the rubber court, perhaps the only eye-catching part of a gym that serves its purpose perfectly, if without the flashy fixings of some area courts.
The gym fits the school’s boys’ basketball team perfectly: Robinson’s been propelled to strong start by a foundation of fundamentals — omnipresent help defense and just enough scoring — that don’t exactly fill a highlight reel. But what that combination lacks in flash, it makes up for in highlight-ready plays prevented.
In a 74-54 win over Battlefield (5-5) on Saturday night, that subtle but steady defense translated to an eye-popping blowout.
“We made sure we knew where they were on the court,” said Robinson guard Jared Steen. “We always had help. . . and our defense keys our offense so we know if we do well on defense, we’ll have a good game.”
With consistency in the halfcourt and in turnover-induced-transition, the Rams turned their defense into plenty of offense from a variety of sources, including 18 points from big man Taylor Downey.
Downey was often set up by unselfish looks from the Robinson backcourt, from which Steen (15 points), Avyn Johnson (14 points) and swingman Joe Bynum (nine points) chipped in by hitting the shots the defense yielded and forcing few others.
“The thing that makes us tough is you can’t come into a game against us and say ‘if we stop so-and-so, we’ll beat Robinson,” Rams Coach Brian Nelson said. “You have to play all five of our guys. All five of our guys can do something positive at the offensive end. . . and collectively, our five do a really good job helping each other out, playing team defense. That’s the way we’ll be successful.”
Ten different Rams chipped in, accumulating points with eight three-pointers, 13-of-18 foul shooting, and the rest almost entirely on layups created by good looks or offensive rebounds. While Robinson was able to find Downey and others wide open in the post on several occasions, the Rams separated from Battlefield by rotating on defense and helping each other to ensure the Bobcats never did the same.
“Help defense is something we drill in practice every day,” Nelson said. “We know if we don’t do it, it’s going to be a long night. One of our two losses is a result of not being where we needed to be defensively. But when we go out and do it correctly, that makes us win.”