New up-tempo style buries opponents; more than 20 steals a game
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
The Brentwood High School girls basketball team has completed the first week of its 11-week regular season. If the first three games are any indication, the season could be a doozy. Not only are the Eagles 3-0 for the first time in at least the past few years, but they’ve smoked opponents 196-97.
Yes, it’s true that their first opponent, McKinley, is struggling. But the Eagles also beat Lift for Life and Carnahan, who both have winning records.
Though their fans know the season is young, they were sure smiling a lot last week. Part of it is probably from relief. The team wasn’t supposed to do this well this early. Three starters from last year, including the top scorer, decided to not come out this year. Coach Chris Jones rolled out a new offensive scheme. It’s reasonable to expect a slow start.
But “slow” is nowhere in the new team’s vocabulary. With an exciting crop of freshmen and solid play from returners, the Eagles have been running an up-tempo game that has stymied opponents. They’ve tallied at least 20 steals a game, have three freshmen averaging at least nine points an outing and have been dominant inside.
“It is fun to watch,” said Jones. “I’ve always wanted to go up-tempo, but we’ve had girls in the past who wanted to pace themselves. Now we’re not doing that. We’re subbing you out, get somebody else in there and we’re going to go full speed.”
The inside dominance was expected. Junior center Sophia Rivera is averaging 12 rebounds and five blocks a game. Air’shay Lampkin has nine boards a game. Rivera’s blocks are fun to watch. With the strength you’d expect from a two-time state champ in the shot put and discus, she sometimes smacks the ball into the bleachers.
Not so expected was the play from freshmen Nija Price, Marshelle Franklin and Caroline Snare. They’re averaging 16, 13 and nine points a game, respectively. Franklin and Price are responsible for more than half of the team’s 64 steals.
“Nija and Marchelle have played select before and they like to run up and down, and they know how to find the right players,” said Jones. “Emma [Holmes] has been a big part of it, Abby [Harper] has too. We call it swooping to the basket, where we’re just running full speed and they’ll just find you some way. You get a lot of stuff in transition.”
Jones continued, “You can tell players how to play this style but if they haven’t experienced it they’ll be like ‘What are you talking about, coach? I sprinted down the court for no reason.’ But now they’re all buying in to it.”
Bonding through adversity
Harper, who co-leads with Franklin in assists, said that the challenge of losing so many players from last year has helped the new team bond.
“Even though we lost some key players, I think it brought us closer together in a way, because now we’re all working towards the same goal,” she said. “Now I think our team chemistry is better than last year.”
The Eagles play next in the John Burroughs Tournament on Jan. 5-9.
Dec. 8: Brentwood 60, McKinley 25
Brentwood needed no time to clear the cobwebs in its first game. The Eagles raced to an 8-0 lead, were ahead by 16 in the second quarter and ran the fast break to a 25-point lead in the third. The game was over by then, yet BHS added 10 points of icing to their lead in the fourth period. While Brentwood teams in recent years have slowed down and killed the clock when they were way ahead, these girls don’t seem to have brakes. Franklin and Price scored most of their combined 34 points on the fast break, and Harper fanned the flames with six assists. The pace was also sustained by Franklin and Price’s 14 steals and Rivera’s 13 rebounds and 10 blocks. Rivera scored eight points, so she was one basket from a triple double. Also with a double double was Price, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Dec. 10: Brentwood 53, Lift for Life 43
Lift for Life, now 3-1, is a better team than McKinley, 0-3. Yet Brentwood beat them the same way, with pressing, running and stealing. The Eagles got so many steals, 22, that it overcame their 29 percent accuracy on field goals. Snare had the only hot hand, sinking five of eight for 10 points, while Price, Franklin, Rivera and Holmes combined to make just six of 36. Price led all scorers, with 18 points. Franklin and Harper combined for 12 steals and nine assists.
Dec. 12: Brentwood 83, Carnahan 29
We’re betting it’s been many years since six Brentwood players scored in double digits. That’s right, six. Franklin, Price and Rivera scored 14 apiece, Holmes had 13, Lampkin 12 and Snare 11. How do you defend against such a balanced offense? Don’t ask Carnahan, which scored only four points in the entire second half. Like Lift for Life, the Cougars, 3-2, learned that it’s hard to score when you give up 22 steals; Price, Lampkin and Anthony had four apiece. As usual, Harper and Franklin led in assists, with 15 combined, and Rivera in blocks, with five.
Game Results as of Dec. 14
Dec. 8: Beat McKinley 60-25
Dec. 10: Beat Lift for Life 53-43
Dec. 12: Beat Carnahan 83-29