Enterprise boys basketball coach Rhett Harrelson said before the game that he “would be shocked” if the Wildcats weren’t ready to play against undefeated and No. 2-ranked Robert E. Lee on Friday night.
It didn’t take long for Harrelson to be shocked. The Generals scored six straight points to erase an early 4-2 Enterprise lead and eventually earned a 50-43 victory that extended their record to 19-0.
The Wildcats weren’t ever out of the game, to be sure. But they turned it over too much against the quicker Generals and seemed a half-step tentative at times.
“I’m going to have to go back and watch, but it just felt like we were in a fog to start the game — like we weren’t ready to play,” Harrelson said immediately after the game. “There’s no excuse for that.”
Adding to his frustration was knowing the Generals did not shoot well Friday. They were ripe for an upset, but the Wildcats (12-9, 0-2) did not play well enough to get it done.
Despite all that, Enterprise had its chances and played well in spurts. In fact, it was a one-possession game, 46-43, with 1:41 remaining as Wildcat Quentin Hayes scored on a drive to the basket and drew a foul. He missed the free throw, and Lee scored the final four points of the game for its seven-point victory.
That “fog” Harrelson mentioned shrouded the Wildcats for a quarter and a half. Both teams played well defensively. Lee led 13-8 after the first quarter and started the second period with Duke Miles scoring on a fast break after a steal by Troy football signee Deyunkrea Lewis and an alley-oop dunk by Jamari Smith on a nice pass from Miles.
The Wildcats got it back to five points at 17-12 on two Dallas Howell free throws and a layup by Hayes. But Smith again got a dunk on a two-on-one break and Bud Davis scored on a layup in transition for a 21-12 Generals lead midway through the second quarter.
That was Harrelson’s breaking point. He called timeout and ripped into the Wildcats.
“That’s what frustrates me more than anything,” the coach said. “It’s not the turnovers. It’s not the mistakes we make. It’s the mental preparation of not being ready to play — and it showed.”
That timeout made a difference. Josh McCray’s 3-pointer started a seven-minute stretch — on either side of halftime — in which the Wildcats protected the basketball and clearly outplayed Robert E. Lee.
Another McCray 3-pointer — he and Hayes led the Wildcats with 10 points each — cut Enterprise’s deficit to 23-20 at halftime.
The Wildcats then started the second half on an 8-2 run. Jared Smith scored on a layup after a nice pass from Jalen Cunningham that put them out front, 26-25. McCray scored on another fine assist from Howell to go up 28-25 with 4:55 left in the third.
The senior-laden Generals did not panic. Miles, who led them with 14 points, hit two foul shots that started a 10-0 run, capped on a layup by Davis that restored Lee’s edge to 35-28. The Generals took a 36-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
Enterprise did hang around. Down seven, Hayes cut along the baseline and finished with a driving layup. Two baskets by Smith, who finished with 8 points, twice cut the deficit to three. Hayes again cut it to three with 1:41 left.
Lee’s Lewis scored inside and Miles hit two foul shots for the game’s final points with 36 seconds remaining. Lewis and Davis scored 10 points each for the Generals.
“There’s probably some positive to come out of it. I’m not really feeling it right now and don’t know what it is,” said Harrelson, knowing a possible upset had slipped away. “You can’t dwell on it. You’ve just got to come back and be ready to go. We’ll watch the film, learn from it, come back to practice ready.”
Enterprise next plays Jeff Davis at home Tuesday night, another area game. The Vols defeated the Wildcats in Montgomery last week.
R.E. Lee 43, Enterprise 38
This was a heartbreaker for the Wildcats, who led 29-21 early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold off Aaliyah Postma and the Generals down the stretch.
Postma scored 21 points — 13 in the second half — to pace Lee. Teammate Colea Washington added 14 points.
Alehzia McClain scored a game-high 23 points for Enterprise. Dashia Nelson added 11 points.
The game was close throughout. Lee led 9-7 after the first quarter and Enterprise tied it at 13 by halftime.
The Wildcats closed the third quarter strong and took a 28-21 lead into the final period. Alayna Dean hit one of two free throws in the first minute of the fourth to make it an eight-point edge.
Lee got hot, scrambling back into the lead with a 10-1 run. Washington’s layup put the visitors up 31-30 with 5:35 remaining.
Enterprise retook the lead on two McClain free throws with just under five minutes left. She also added a jumper with three minutes to play that tied the game at 34-all. Nelson retied it at 36 with two foul shots at the 2:44 mark.
But Postma started a 7-0 run with a basket as Enterprise either missed shots or turned it over during the final 2½ minutes. McClain hit a basket in the final seconds to make it 43-38.
Enterprise 47, R.E. Lee 41
The Wildcats were up 14-8 after the first quarter and repeatedly answered scoring spurts by the Generals with key points to stay out front.
Marshawn Fitzpatrick led Enterprise with 16 points and Jordan Hines added 13 in the win. Eric Bonner and Tristan Agard both played solid defense in the press and half-court sets for the Wildcats to help fend off the Generals down the stretch.