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Tue.| 3-19-24 | SPORTS

     On February 21, 2023, the Rose men’s basketball team traveled to First Flight to face off against the Nighthawks in the first round of the playoffs. They suffered a 84-64 loss, however after losing only three seniors, they were poised to start the 2023-2024 season. They had seven seniors returning to the team, a number they hadn’t eclipsed since the 2021 season. 

     One of these veterans was senior forward Jalen Coward who transferred from South Central before his sophomore season. Coward, a significant bench player last season, was primed to step in and take over the role of an everyday starter, and a leader for this year’s team. Coward made sure his teammates knew to take every moment seriously and play every minute as best as they could.

     “Always go hard in practice,” Coward said. “Be coachable and play every game as the last; you never know when it’s going to be taken away from you.”

     Rose got off to a rocky start, dropping four of their first six games to begin the season. They played a tournament over Christmas break, only going 1-2, but found their stride getting into conference play. 

     “We had to come together and play as a team,” Coward said. “We started off a little slow, we were playing ‘one ball’.” 

     The Rampants headed into 2024 with a 5-6 record, dropping a conference game to the eventual conference champion, South Central. Starting with a conference win against Northside-Jacksonville at home, Rose proceeded to rattle off six straight wins to place them at second in the Big East 3A/4A conference. None mattered more to Coward than the win against crosstown rival, D.H. Conley.


Photo by Elliott Flinchbaugh 

“      It was a good experience every time our student section came to support us play, like against Conley,” Coward said. 

After dropping three straight games at home, the Rampants went on another run to make a playoff push, winning five straight games before losing on the road against New Bern to end the regular season. Rose narrowly missed out on hosting a playoff game, securing the 17 seed. They would travel to Triton for a first round matchup. 371 days after heartbreak in Kill Devil Hills, the Rampants won 74-50 to set up a matchup with one seeded Swansboro. 

      A back-and-forth game between the two teams would result in a 55-55 game in the closing stages of an overtime thriller. Unfortunately for Coward and the Rampants, a last second three pointer would be the difference, sending Rose home in the second round. 

      “We went to overtime and they hit a three,” Coward said. “We were hanging with them, we were up by five points, but they won the game.” 

     The Rampants will look to build on their success from this season, as three of the five main starters will be returning next year to look to bring Rose another state championship banner. 

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