Randolph-Macon flipping the script

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A highly-touted high school athlete, Taylor bided his time before becoming Randolph-Macon's go-to player as a senior.
Randolph-Macon Athletics photo

Michael Taylor was a multi-sport star in high school. He was a conference player of the year in basketball and soccer and once earned all-state honors in cross country. He was also an all-state selection in hoops.

When it came down to deciding which sport he would play at the next level, basketball and soccer were his choices.

"I wasn't sure what I was going to play and didn't make a decision until late in my senior year," Taylor said. "I probably could have played soccer at a higher level (of the NCAA), but it came down to me liking basketball more."

It was a good decision.

Taylor is a star with the Randolph-Macon men's basketball team, building off what he accomplished a year ago during a breakout junior season, and he has the Yellow Jackets surging towards an ODAC championship.

Randolph-Macon didn't look a conference contender early in the year, winning only four of its nine non-conference games.

The storyline has changed since conference play began, with the Yellow Jackets unbeaten at 10-0. They are 14-5 overall.

"I think our mentality has changed," Taylor said. "We knew with losing as many (non-conference) games as we did, our only chance to get back to the NCAA tournament is by winning the conference."

There is motivation for sure for Taylor and the Yellow Jackets, who went just 13-14 a year ago, ending a run of three consecutive conference crowns and six consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, including a final four appearance in 2010 and an elite eight trip in 2015.

Taylor is doing his part to keep Randolph-Macon on track for the success it is used to, averaging 10.4 points per game. He has scored in double figures in 11 consecutive games.

"I'm really trying to make the most of this year and showcase my ability," Taylor said. "I've practiced for this moment my whole life and don't want to take it for granted."

Taylor saw his playing time increase over the course of his first two seasons but was never a go-to scorer in either season. Jumping from high school to college takes time and adapting to the speed of the game was the biggest challenge.

"There was definitely a change in the pace and speed of the game," Taylor said. "Everyone plays at a higher intensity and the open shots you had in high school aren't there in college. It took time to adjust to it."

He adjusted in a big way and hasn't looked back. Averaging 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while scoring in double figures 17 times last season, Taylor took his game to another level and ended up as a third-team All-ODAC selection.

So what changed?

"It was the experience of playing on great teams those first two years," Taylor said. "I was on a team with some guys who could have probably played D-I. They set the standards high and that helped make me a better player."

Taylor is the leading scorer on a team that features four players averaging seven or more points per outing. That includes Daniel Noe, who averages 9.9 points per game.

Not only has Taylor made an impact in the scoring column, but the talented forward has been a playmaker as well, dishing out 40 assists, which is eight more assists than he had all of last season.

"I would say my ability to get more players involved has been my biggest improvement," Taylor said. "I've been able to put them in a position to hit big shots. "We just play well as a team and everyone goes out and does what they do best."

Taylor has loved having the opportunity to play for the Yellow Jackets, enjoying the crowd support they get at home and being part of big games.

But there is no time to be complacent. Not when so much is still at stake for the Yellow Jackets.

"We can't get too comfortable," Taylor said. "We're still working to put two halves together. That's going to play a big part in our success the rest of the way."

Mountaineers climb to the top

Schreiner is in first place in the SCAC after completing a season sweep of Colorado College Saturday afternoon.

The Mountaineers topped the Tigers 85-70 a week after edging Colorado College 56-54.

Blake Kelley paved the way for the Tigers, pouring in 19 points. The junior forward drilled four 3-pointers on a day where he was 7-of-9 from the field. Kelley is averaging 10.2 points per game and is shooting 52 percent from the floor this season.

His effort helped Schreiner win its fifth consecutive game and take sole possession of first place in the standings. The Mountaineers are 7-1 in conference play and is game over .500 on the year with a 10-9 record.

Bevan double trouble for the Eagles

Michelle Bevan came through with her third double-double of the season Sunday to help Emory take down New York 78-75 in UAA action.

Bevan scored a career-high 21 points, the sixth time this year that she has scored in double figures, and grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds to pace the Eagles to their fourth win in their last five games. Bevan was nearly perfect shooting the ball, connecting on 10 of her 13 attempts. Bevan also blocked three shots.

Bevan's performance helped the Eagles improve to 13-5 overall and to 4-3 in the UAA. Averaging 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, the senior has played an instrumental role for a team that has won two consecutive games and has lost consecutive games only once this season.

Averett keeps pace in USA South

Averett picked up a crucial USA South Athletic Conference win Saturday with an 81-71 victory over Piedmont, which came into the showdown riding a seven-game win streak.

The Cougars, who are 7-12 overall, won their second consecutive game and moved into a four-way tie for third in the conference. They are 5-3 overall and just one game out of first place.

James Contreras Jr. paved the way for the Cougars, lighting up the scoreboard for 20 points. He also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists.

Charles Bryant rose to the occasion as well, coming through with his ninth double-double of the season. Bryant scored 13 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.

Averett, which started the season losing five of its first six games, has won four of its last seven and now hits the road for the next four games.

Lynx shows signs of promise

Rhodes hasn't had an easy season, winning only once in its first 18 games, but the Lynx has showed signs of promise as of late, picking up two consecutive wins.

The Lynx nailed down its latest win Sunday, knocking off Berry 55-52. Jessie Ustick paved the way with 17 points. She also grabbed five rebounds and tallied three steals.

Rhodes has lost five games by 10 points or less, including one in double overtime, and is hoping to keep the momentum rolling into the final month of the season.

Yellow Jackets making history

LeTourneau is enjoying its best season at the Division III level.

The Yellow Jackets pushed their record win streak to 12 games and improved to 16-4 on the season. The 16 wins matches the most wins in the Division III era of the program. The 2008-09 team also won 16 teams and played in the ASC tournament that season.

LeTourneau is 9-3 in the ASC and in first place in the East Division of the conference.

Alec Colhoff poured in 25 points, the most he has scored in a game this season. He highlighted his performance with five 3-pointers. Colhoff is averaging 15.2 points per game and has made 50 3-pointers.

Caleb Loggins scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to record his third double-double of the season. Loggins is averaging 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 15 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3football.com and wrote the book Perfect Run as No. 1 about the 2009 Division II men's basketball champions University of Findlay. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.