Hot Shots! Part Trey: Flyers’ duo of Roach & Payne deadly from 3-point range
Two opponents stare each other eye-to-eye and then one takes his foot and makes a line in the dirt and challenges the other, “I dare you to cross this line.”
That kind of dare would never work against St. Joseph Flyers’ senior guards Zach Roach and Ryan Payne. They’d merely shrugged their shoulders and say, “OK, we won’t.”
And then they would square up and let the shot fly from 20-feet and beyond.
Roach and Payne are making a living shooting from behind the 3-point line this season and it has paid dividends for the Flyers who are currently 13-5 and 8-4 in the Southern Ohio Conference after falling just 3 points shy last Friday of upsetting New Boston who is currently ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Division 4 poll.
Between the senior tandem they’ve made 82 3-pointers, a luxury that head coach Chris Barnes embraces.
“When the two of them are on, it’s tough stopping both of them. Thankfully for us, it seems like one or the other is always hot and when they’re both hot, watch out,” said Barnes.
Payne said that his friendship with Roach has helped enable the two players to know instinctively what to expect from the other.
“I’ve always been practicing 3’s all my life. I feel like I’ve actually gone less to the basket (this season), but that’s just the way it feels,” said Payne.
“The way our offense works, we like to drive, penetrate and kick, and I’m one of those guys who that just spots up and waits for Zach and J.C. (Damron) to drive and give me the ball. I probably drive a little less this year, but when I do, I intent to pass the ball out to one of my teammates because that’s how our offense works.”
Roach has done a lot of penetrating and then kicking out to his teammates, especially Payne who has 47 3-pointers on the season.
While Payne leads the team in bombs, Roach has 12 fewer 3-pointers but leads the team with a 17.0 scoring average and has 3.4 assists. However, Payne has dished out 3.0 assists per game.
Payne said the number of 3’s or anything else doesn’t matter.
“We don’t keep track of that stuff. We just want to win. Whoever is hot that night, that’s who we get the ball to pretty much,” said Payne.
“He’s been one of my best friends my life. We played AAU together. Just being able to pass him the ball and see him be able to succeed is a lot of fun. If I’m cold, he’s hot or if he’s cold, I’m hot. It makes it hard to guard both of us.”
Roach — who set the school single-game record with 10 3-pointers last season — is not just a 3-point shooter. Coach Chris Barnes said he has become a complete player.
“I’ve had to do this since my freshman year and even when I was a little kid. I’ve always been the smallest one on the court,” said the 5-foot-8 Roach.
“A little guy has to rely on (3-point shooting) a little bit more than other players. I’ve got to get stronger and embrace the contact a little bit more.”
Work ethic? Barnes said both players would live in the gym if it weren’t for their school work and the fact mom has dinner waiting at the house.
“When Ryan came to us last year, he was more of a slasher and our best defensive player. He still guards the other team’s best guard, but he has spent hours this summer and even before school in the mornings with Zach on the shooting machine and he has become a deadly 3-pointer shooter,” said Barnes.
“And you can say the same thing about Zach. He’s always in the gym shooting. He would have a soccer game and then sneak into the gym afterwards. If I caught him, I had to run him out. But he’s not only a good shooter, he’s a good teammate. Both Zach and Ryan have been great leaders for us,” said Barnes.
Having to deal with playing against bigger guards. Roach said he realized early that he would have to shoot the deep ball.
“It just started with me being with my dad in the gym ever since I was four or five. He’s been in there with me countless times,” said Zach of his dad, Dr. Ben Roach.
“I think it’s all about repetition, getting your legs under you, getting the right form, that’s what it’s all about really.”
Last season, Payne was scoring in double figures before having to sit the final half of the season due to transfer rules. That allowed defenses to shift their attention mainly to Roach and put more pressure on him to make up the lost scoring.
But Roach didn’t see it as adding any pressure. In fact, he found the silver lining.
“Of course, not having Ryan was a horrible thing, but at the same time it kind of built my confidence. It helped me to lead the other guys better because I was the only guy out there along with Isaac (Whaley). Being out there and having to be a leader at such a young age, it was a learning experience for sure,” said Roach.
Barnes said Roach has added to his game because he was forced to play without Payne.
“Zach does a great job of penetrating and kicking the ball back out to the open man. He used to be the guy that just spotted up. Now he handles the ball really well and he has picked up his defense tremendously this season,” said Barnes.
Although both Roach and Payne are 3-point shooters and not very tall by basketball standards, Barnes said there is another similar trait that links them together along with their teammates.
“Both are ultra-competitive but super unselfish. There’s not one bit of jealousy about who scores. It can be J.C., Jimmy (Mahlmeister), Matt (Sheridan), Jackson (Rowe), it doesn’t matter who scores. They just want to win,” said Barnes.
So, Zach Roach and Ryan Payne won’t flinch no matter where you draw the line. Especially if it’s a 3-point goal line.