Eagles earn school record 21 wins en route to state runner up finish

Published 12:44 am Thursday, March 2, 2023

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Those in a Rodney Lamb-run basketball system know defense translates to offense.

The fourth year Bob Hope High School head coach focuses on one side of the court, which in turn makes things easier on the other side of the court.

“We defend well and rebound well,” Lamb told Port Arthur Newsmedia. “We have been able to beat opponents in our district by an average of 28 points per game. It has been because the players have bought into the defensive concept.”

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This was evident in 2022-23 as the Eagles won a school-record 21 games and finished as runner-up in last month’s TCAL state championship tournament in San Antonio.

El Paso Da Vinci School topped the Eagles 60-51 in the final game.

The progress has been consistent under Lamb, who led the squad to 12 wins in year one during the start of the team’s run to state prominence.

He prides himself on having an all-year program with team play in a Spring league, Summer league and tournament before the regular season begins.

“They definitely understand the system and bought into defense,” Lamb said. “I tell the kids all the time, ‘Steph Curry is one of the best and worst things to happen to basketball because everyone thinks they can shoot.’ But if you buy into defense, then defense turns into offense. They have bought into it and it helps a lot offensively.”

Bob Hope was led this year by seniors Larry Johnson and Ethan Airiavbere.

Johnson averaged 21 points per game, and Airiavbere scored 22 points per game.

Now Lamb is trying to get colleges to consider them for potential scholarship opportunities.

Airiavbere started playing varsity for the Eagles in eighth grade and has been a team captain for several years. He does a great job leading younger student-athletes who look up to him.

“He is our Superman,” Lamb said. “He does a little bit of everything.”

Johnson finished his first year in the program and was described by his coach as a scoring machine.

“I can trust him with the ball in his hand,” Lamb said. “He does not make many mistakes. He is a point guard and I am a former point guard, so I am really tough on the point guards. He definitely came into the program, buying into my offense, buying into my defense and it translated to a lot of wins.”

Program goals

Lamb preaches academics at Bob Hope, which he said is more of an academic institution than a sports-led school.

“The last couple of years we have had a surge in athletics, but I have also made it very clear to the guys: academics are No. 1. We have tutoring around the clock. Some of the kids have Saturday tutorials. It is very important.”

Lamb said it is good to see older student-athletes helping younger players during study hall.

Plans for 2023-24 are in the works.

The boys had two weeks off but are already eyeing a five-week Spring league.

“We are going in with the expectation that we are the big guys on campus,” Lamb said. “We are no longer coming into the tournament quiet. Everybody knows who we are. Our expectations are to take that step from runner-up to state champion. We are lifting weights and doing conditioning. I am also the cross country coach, so my basketball boys are required to run cross country.”

According to Lamb, each returning player must earn their spots.

Seven seniors are expected to compete in 2023-24, and several current eighth graders are making strong impressions.

Alijah Airiavbere, brother of Ethan, just finished the season averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“I am expecting him to make that next big jump next year and replace his brother in scoring,” Lamb said.