MOUNT HOLLY (N.J.) - Rancocas Valley Regional High School senior Jameir Rollins played football for the first time during the fall.
After finding success, the 6-foot-4 athlete figured basketball was worth a try, too.
Rollins collected nine points, nine rebounds and six blocks off the bench in the Red Devils' 48-45 triumph over Cherokee in an Olympic Conference American Division showdown on Thursday night. Rancocas Valley improved its record to 5-3.
"He's been terrific off the bench," Rancocas Valley coach Jay Flanagan said. "I don't think I'll ever start him. We can sub him for anybody. He's not that big, but he's a rim protector because he's one of the most athletic kids I've seen this year. He's been a big asset. Without him, we would be struggling a bit. He's been terrific."
The senior played wide receiver and defensive back for Rancocas Valley's football team in 2022. He accumulated 21 receptions for 362 yards and two touchdowns in his first season playing at the high school level. As a dynamic athlete, Rollins was also used on special teams and in two-point conversion situations. The Red Devils went 6-4 and reached the South Jersey Group 5 playoffs.
Rollins' production also boosted his confidence. College coaches were in to see him compete on the hardwood on Thursday, and assistant coach Brett Flood noted that the senior is starting to realize the potential he possesses as an athlete.
Playing under the direction of Garrett Lucas in the fall helped Rollins redirect his focus.
"It definitely helped with toughness and focus," Rollins said. "Coach Lucas, he's a great coach. He helped me focus up on schoolwork, all that."
The preparation for football in the weight room also helped the senior build strength. The athleticism and technique have translated to the hardwood and is helping Rollins be productive around the basket.
"In the beginning of the season we were in the weight room," Rollins said. "That kind of helped me get stronger with the ball. It helped get stronger in the paint to finish and get rebounds.
"I bring hustle. Defense, rebounding, getting the second chance points. I just bring effort."
Cherokee used an 11-6 run out of the gate and led 17-11 after one quarter. The Chiefs connected on five 3-pointers and were nearly flawless from the field.
The second quarter proved to be the difference as Rancocas Valley unveiled its tenacious full court pressure defense that forced double teams and traps along the sidelines and caused havoc for the Chiefs' guards.
Rylhe Tibbs drained a triple with two seconds left in the frame to allow the Red Devils to close the opening half on a 16-0 run and outscore Cherokee 19-2 in the second stanza.
"The second quarter won us the game," Flanagan said. "It was19-2. We lost every other quarter. (In the) second quarter we were aggressive. We played great."
Montre Wilson splashed an NBA-range triple on the initial inbound to start the third quarter before Jack Orendac knocked down a mid-range jump shot to extend the Red Devils' run after the break. Rancocas Valley scored 21 unanswered points during the stretch and led by as much as 16 points.
The Chiefs responded with an 11-2 run and a basket by Will Carr cut the deficit to 37-30 with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.
Cherokee used another 11-2 run after trailing by 12 points in the fourth quarter to cut its deficit to 46-43 with less than two minutes left to play.
Freshman Louis Galasso scored eight of his team-high 13 points in the second half for the Chiefs. Senior Keishon Sellers added 12.
"We're two weeks away," Cherokee coach Eric Cassidy said. "I told the kids we're a work in progress. They played hard. R.V.'s really good. They gave us some fits in the first half, and we adjusted.
"We're still learning as a young group how to win. That takes time. I didn't go in (the locker room) and yell and scream. I clapped it up. I'm just proud of their effort. We're going to continue to get better. I knew they wouldn't give up."
Orendac led Rancocas Valley with a team-best 13 points. Wilson contributed 10, including three 3-pointers, and freshman Jaylen Washington added seven.
The Red Devils hope to improve their execution in late-game situations going forward, but a win is a win.
"They started coming back with that press. We were kind of shaky a little bit on that, but we were able to hold it together in the fourth, get some key buckets and get a win," Orendac said. "We started off kind of slow, didn't want to force too much. Everything's on our defense. We get those chances because we stop them on defense and that's really what held us together."