Rob Goodman describes his sparse, gray-speckled facial hair as "scruffy." He complains that it itches. But the Sayre boys' basketball coach is in no hurry to grab a razor.
When the Spartans ended a four-game losing skid with a road victory at Nicholas County on Feb. 5, the players talked Goodman into not shaving as long as they kept winning. The next night they won at Pendleton County.
Sayre continued its streak by rallying past Bethlehem 65-57 Tuesday night in what might have been its best performance of the season.
Afterward, Goodman stroked his stubble and said, "I'm very excited about how we're playing. The guys are learning they can compete, and that's the biggest hurdle they had to get over."
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Goodman thinks Sayre benefited from a "brutal" January schedule that included district losses to Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Scott County, and a loss to Lexington Christian Academy in the All "A" region.
"I truly believe that helped us be the team we are now."
Sayre was in top form against Bethlehem.
The Spartans shot 62 percent, including 8-for-13 on three-pointers.
Jake Duby, a 6-foot-3 sophomore transfer from Lafayette, had 21 points and seven rebounds.
"He can score in a multitude of ways," Goodman said. "He can drive to the rim, he can hit the three, and he's dead-on on free throws."
Robbie Goodman, a 5-10 sophomore point guard, was 5-for-6 on threes, and had 17 points and five assists.
"He couldn't find the rim in January," his dad and coach said. "Now he's stepping up and making baskets."
Quinn Pergande, a 6-8 senior, was a force inside with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Pergande has perimeter skills, but Sayre needs him on the blocks. "He accepts that role," Goodman said. "He knows we need him to play inside and pound the basket, and he gives us that night in and night out."
Goodman also credited the senior leadership provided by Pergande, Alex Webb and Spencer Sabharwal for Sayre's recent surge.
The unsung hero against Bethlehem was Jack Henderson. After Jude Hutchins lit up the Spartans for 24 points to help the Eagles to a 35-32 halftime lead, Goodman assigned Henderson to shadow Hutchins' every move.
"I told him, 'I don't care what he does or where he goes, you stare in his face the whole time,'" Goodman said. "Jack did a super job."
Hutchins' scoring the rest of the game amounted to two free throws. Sayre took advantage by opening the third quarter with a 14-0 run to assume control.
"We probably would've lost to this team in December," Duby said. "That was before we played teams like Henry Clay, Bryan Station and Scott County, and saw their speed and physicalness. Now we know we've got to play with that kind of intensity."
Pergande also noted the benefits of playing tough competition: "If you see that high-level basketball, you come to emulate it."
Sayre has four regular-season games left, and all four are winnable if the Spartans play as they did against Bethlehem. That would give them a seven-game winning streak and 19 victories, and their coach would be sporting a 3-week-old beard.
"I hope he looks like a lumberjack by the end of the season," Pergande quipped.