The Bruins apply some of their new full-court pressure defense.

Meet the new, up-tempo Bruins: Lake Braddock 100, Champe 88

Lake Braddock boys basketball used to be known as the Princeton of Northern Virginia basketball. Now, they may be known as the area’s UNLV–maybe its Loyola Marymount.

Apologies to our younger readers for these basketball references from 20-25 years ago. Point is, Brian Metress’ Bruins have upped their pace of play considerably. That was readily apparent as they defeated Champe 100-88 in the third place game of the Glory Days Tournament.

Metress’ players seem pretty happy with the change to the up-tempo game.

“I love it,” said Bruins sophomore guard Quentin James after the game. “It’s a much more free-styling style of play compared to how we were playing before. It gives me more freedom.” When asked if he wanted to play the same way for the duration of his high school career, James didn’t hesitate. “I hope so,” he said.

The Bruins (3-6) began the season playing a much more traditional pace of basketball, but they weren’t getting results. They started the season 1-5 and only averaged just over 48 points a game. While dramatic changes in style are usually ill-advised once the season has begun, Metress knew he had to do something.

“We were getting beat–we were scoring in the fourties,” the veteran coach said. “During the ice day when we couldn’t practice I was able to start watching tape, for three days total, and I said ‘nope.’ We’re not playing that way anymore. So I told the guys, I can’t stand watching us play. In my bones, I’d rather press and run. It’s a testament to our guys that they’ve been able to make the change.”

While Lake Braddock may not be ready to lace up their track shoes with some of the speedier teams in the region just yet, the early returns have been promising with the change. In their tourney the Bruins averaged 94 points a game, almost twice as many points a game as they did earlier this season. The Bruins lost to a very solid Hayfield team Tuesday night, but were victorious against Champe, a similarly talented team.

James had a great night Wednesday. The sophomore scored 26 points and dished out seven or eight assists by our count. It was hard to tell because Lake Braddock pushed the ball so quickly, often responding to a Knights basket with a shot of their own within five seconds. Senior Corey Pelham had 32 points and became only the fifth Bruins player in history to register 1,000 points for his career.

“He’s a great person to be around,” James said of Pelham. “I love playing off his energy. Playing next to him has been a great experience.”

Guards Pelham (left) and James receive instructions from Coach Metress. The pair combined for 58 points against Champe.

While Lake Braddock seems to have found a new lease on the season, the victory over Champe (6-3) was anything but easy. The game was see-saw nearly the entire way and with just over three minutes left in the game a put-back by Champe freshman forward Tyler Savage (21 points, eight rebounds, five assists) gave the Knights an 83-81 lead.

Just after that things started to go south for Champe, however. Knights star Dom Fragala (33 points) picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in the next minute and had to leave the game. The calls, on fouls that weren’t hard or very noticeable, left the Knights’ visiting crowd incensed and seemed to take a ton of mojo out their team. A nifty pass by the Bruins’ Josh Hassett to Pelham, an intentional foul by the Knights, another bucket and a charge call on Savage and suddenly it was 88-83 just 25 seconds later. Champe never recovered.

“It was hard not being out there for my team,” Fragala said after the game. “It was tough going to the bench not being able to do anything to help us.”

–Chris Jollay