Guard Brayden Gault scored 29 points to lead Battlefield over host Wakefield Thursday night in the Final of the George Long Holiday Hoops Tournament, 88-79.
“We were hungry to win this tournament,” Gault said. “I just wanted to play hard for my team. Tonight we played together as a team and because of that we played well.”
The school’s all-time leading scorer, Gault played with a remarkable intensity against a talented Wakefield team. The as-yet-uncommitted 6’4″ senior did it all, tallying eight rebounds and five assists to go with his scoring. He hit from long range (four three-pointers) but also got to the rim and played aggressive defense. On this evening he was clearly Battlefield’s sparkplug.
There wasn’t much defense in this one early on as the Warriors led 30-27 after one quarter. Both teams love to play up-tempo, and it looked for a while like the teams might score 100 each. But then the Bobcats’ 1-3-1 started to do a far better job defending the explosive Warriors. Battlefield held the Warriors to 25 points combined in the second and third quarters while its offense didn’t miss a beat. The taller Bobcats controlled the boards and forced bad shots from Wakefield in the middle portions of the contest, often scoring on long outlet passes after the Warriors’ misses. Wakefield is accustomed to scoring far more points than its opponents in transition but could not do so against the Bobcats.
The hosts certainly made it interesting late, however. Down 17 after the third quarter, the Warriors stormed back using an aggressive full-court press and no longer content to settle for poor shots. They forced turnover after turnover and got to the basket for lay-ups and before long only trailed by a couple of possessions. At that point it seemed like the Bobcats might wilt under the enormous pressure placed on them by the Warriors and their raucous fans.
Then Gault hit a three-pointer with a few minutes left and the Bobcats relaxed to control the ball and hold on for the victory. While Gault was amazing, he certainly received a ton of help from his teammates not just in the title game but throughout the three-day tournament. As one would expect in any road victory over Wakefield the team as a whole played very well, shooting over 50% from the field. Grant Yates had 14 points and was named tournament MVP, while Will Bounds had 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
For Wakefield (8-3), the magnificent trio of Chris Warner, Benjamin Horsford and A’mari Cooper were, not surprisingly, magnificent. The three combined for 58 points, 21 rebounds and 12 assists. Even with that production Warner and Horsford, both fantastic shooters, found it hard to get comfortable behind the arc against Battlefield’s defense. The pair was only 2-15 from three-point range on the night.
Battlefield (9-3) now emerges from a brutal non-conference schedule a better team and a threat to do serious damage in the postseason.
“We struggled early on with some losses, but I think we’re going to be a good team,” said Gault. “I think our preparation is better, and we now have the mindset that no matter who we’re playing we’re going to beat them.”
all stats are unofficial
|Threes: Ugtakhbayar 2-6, Short 1-4, Warner 1-5, Horsford 1-10, Watkins 0-2|
|Threes: Terry 2-2, Gault 4-8, Bounds 1-3, Henry 0-1, Pagon 0-1, Yates 0-3, Washington 0-4|