Eagles Deny Bayless’s Bid for League Lead

Aro Ntatin flips a pass against John Burroughs. He's one of several  BHS players who suddenly has more playing time because of two players leaving the team recently. "He's one of the best team players to come through the program in a long time," said assistant coach Ben Peters. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Aro Ntatin flips a pass against John Burroughs. He’s one of several BHS players who suddenly has more playing time because of two players leaving the team recently. “Aro is one of the best team players to come through the program in a long time,” said assistant coach Ben Peters. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Despite missing 2 of top 3 scorers, BHS repels Broncos

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

It has been a crazy past couple of weeks for the Brentwood High School boys basketball team. But on Friday it had a happy ending.

Kenya Thompson looks for a way to get the ball around Jim Smith of John Burroughs . . .
Kenya Thompson looks for a way to get the ball around Sachit Bhat of John Burroughs in the fourth period . . .
. . . then flips it toward the net. The play was in the fourth period.
. . . then flips it toward the net.

In the first week of February the Eagles lost starters Jon Duffe-Holmes and Torrie Robinson for the rest of the season. The losses came at a bad time, as they were one game ahead of Bayless in the conference race and faced a road game against the Broncos on Friday.

As they rode the bus to Bayless, the question was how much worse they’d play without Robinson and Duffe-Holmes, who had been their No. 2 and No. 3 scorers. It wasn’t encouraging that three nights earlier they’d beaten Hancock by only eight points. Back in January, with Duffe-Holmes and Robinson in the lineup, they’d routed the Tigers by 32. The team couldn’t afford to slip that far against Bayless, whom they had topped by only 10 in January — and in a game where Duffe-Holmes and Robinson were the top scorer and rebounder.

But on Friday night at Bayless the question was answered, and quickly. The Eagles went on an 18-2 run in the first quarter and ended up winning by 13. The victory ensured them of at least a tie for the conference title for the third year in a row. They’ll win it outright if they beat Valley Park in Brentwood on Feb. 17.

The clutch win supported what assistant coach Ben Peterson said about the new lineup several days earlier.

“We’ve had some extenuating circumstances that have taken some pretty good players out of the program, and that always makes it tough,” said Peters. “But the one thing about Brentwood sports is that, being such a tight-knit community, you pull together and rally around the team that you have.”

Jones, Sappington score more

But the new lineup has required an adjustment for players and coaches.

“Due to the fact that we’ve lost some of our good players, it took our team down a couple of levels,” said guard Kenya Thompson.

Robinson, a guard, averaged nine points a game and was the team’s most accurate free-throw shooter. Duffe-Holmes, a forward, had 8.1 points a game and led the team in scoring several times. In their absence, most of the scoring slack has been taken up by forward Charles Jones and point guard Skylar Sappington.

Jones, already the No. 1 scorer with 17.1 a game, scored 31 against Bayless and 30 vs. Hancock.

“l just let the offense come to me,” he said after the Hancock game.

Charles Jones advances the ball. He's chased by Nathan Van Slyke of Burroughs.
Charles Jones advances the ball, chased by Nathan Van Slyke of Burroughs.

Sappington has scored in single digits most of the season but in recent games he has 13, 11 and a career-high 23.

“Since we don’t have a couple of people on the team anymore I just know that I have to step up and make a few more shots,” he said.

Brentwood’s overall aggressiveness seems to have increased. Senior Jihad Muhammad averages 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 points a game but he had 15 and 12 at Bayless.

As Ryan Mills of John Burroughs attacks with a layup, Skylar Sappington gets his hand on the ball . . .
As Ryan Mill of Burroughs attacks with a layup, Skylar Sappington gets his hand on the ball . . .
. . . and strips the ball from Mill in the fourth period.
. . . and strips the ball from Mill in the fourth period.

Sort of like 2014

This is the second year in a row that Brentwood has lost at least two varsity starters in February. Last year the team lost Justice Bratcher, Xavier Bratcher, Josh Moreno and and Malik Kelly but pulled together and upset John Burroughs in the district tournament to reach the semifinals.

Said Peters, “It is a blow to the team, but sometimes, just like in life, you can’t sit back and get lost in your feelings and the negative things that happen. You have to keep going with what you have and stay positive and focused.”

“We need to keep our heads up, get ready for tomorrow,” said Thompson. “Keep the intensity high and everything will work out in the end. If we all keep our heads together we can accomplish something.”

Bralyn Parks fights with Jim Smith of John Burroughs.
Bralyn Parks positions himself for a rebound in the game with John Burroughs.

Feb. 10: won vs. Hancock 67-59
Brentwood won by eight points after having routed Hancock by 32 a few weeks earlier. At least part of the difference last week was that it was the first game without Robinson. The senior guard scored 17 on the Pirates in January. With Robinson and Duffe-Holmes both off the roster, Jones and Sappington feel pressure to score more. They both had career highs in this game. Jones: “I found good shots – mid-range, three-pointers. I got to the basket relatively easily.” Key stats: BHS had 15 steals and six blocks. Leaders: Jones, 30 points (11-19 FG), seven rebounds; Sappington, 23 points, nine assists; Thompson, five steals; Muhammad, eight rebounds, three blocks; Hancock’s Jreice Harrington, 12 points.

Ryan Short protects the ball from two Burroughs players.
Ryan Short protects the ball from two Burroughs players.

Feb. 11: lost vs. John Burroughs 51-40
Remember The Shot? The Bombers must, and they got revenge for it with this victory. Last year in the district tournament, Burroughs had the ball and led Brentwood by a basket with two seconds left. But BHS senior Marc Powells intercepted an inbounds pass under his goal and banked it in to send the game into overtime. The suddenly inspired Eagles went on to win. The awful memory had to be in the minds of the 2014-15 Bombers while preparing for this game, as nine of them are seniors or juniors. But get this: The Eagles’ OT victory last year came a couple of weeks after the Bombers had beaten them in the regular season — by 11 points. Key stat: The Bombers had seven more steals and attempted 19 more free throws. They made only four more free throws but having so many fouls took the teeth out of the Eagles’ defense. Leaders: Jones, 16 points (6-7 FG); Sappington, 13 points, eight assists; JB’s Ronald Smith, 27 points.

Head coach Kevin Kullum tells his team how to overcome a 10-point deficit with one quarter left.
Head coach Kevin Kullum tells his team how to overcome a 10-point John Burroughs lead with one quarter left.

Feb. 12: lost vs. Cleveland NJROTC 65-46
Revenge for Brentwood’s 42-point football victory perhaps? Cleveland led by only four points at halftime before an 18-7 run in the third quarter. Key stats: BHS committed 22 turnovers. Jones was the only Eagle with more than six points. Leaders: Jones, 16 points (5-11 FG), six rebounds; Sappington, eight assists; Muhammad, six rebounds; Thompson, three steals.

Justice Harris covers Sachit Bhat of John Burroughs.
Justice Harris covers Sachit Bhat of John Burroughs.

Feb. 13: won at Bayless 63-50
The Broncos’ bid for the conference lead was quickly dashed by the Eagles’ 18-2 run in the first quarter. Key stats: Brentwood made 16 steals and six blocks. Leaders: Jones, 31 points (11-15 FG), seven rebounds; Muhammad, 15 rebounds, 12 points; Sappington, 11 points, 11 assists; Thompson, nine steals.

Ryan Short (left) and Bralyn Parks try to stop a layup from Ronald Smith in the third period against Burroughs.
Ryan Short (left) and Bralyn Parks try to stop a layup from Ronald Smith in the third period against Burroughs.

South Central AA Conference
Standings as of Feb. 15
Brentwood 6-1
Bayless 4-3
Valley Park 4-3
Crossroads 3-3
Hancock 0-7

Ryan Short and Kenya Thompson try to strip the ball from a Burroughs player in the fourth period.
Ryan Short and Kenya Thompson try to strip the ball from a Burroughs player in the fourth period.

St. Louis leaders
As of Feb. 15, Sappington’s 8.32 assists a game is ranked No. 1 in the St. Louis area, and Thompson’s 3.50 steals a game is No. 9.

Charles Jones hits the floor while scrambling for a loose ball.
Charles Jones hits the floor while pursuing a loose ball in the third period.

Brentwood is 11-11 as of Feb. 15
Dec. 2: won vs. Crossroads 60-41 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 4: won vs. Valley Park 58-52 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 5: lost vs. Principia 42-39 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 8: won vs. McKinley 64-38
Dec. 22: lost vs. Westminster 63-16 in MICDS Holiday Invitational
Dec. 27: lost vs. Miller Career 50-49 in MICDS Holiday Invitational
Jan. 6: won vs. Gateway STEM 55-52
Jan. 7: lost vs. Lift for Life 67-30
Jan. 13: lost vs. Crossroads 45-41
Jan. 20: lost vs. MRH 56-41
Jan. 21: lost at Whitfield 61-53
Jan. 23: won vs. Hancock 63-31
Jan. 27: won vs. Bayless 53-43
Jan. 28: lost at Trinity Catholic 69-60
Jan. 30: won at Valley Park 45-23
Feb. 3: won vs. Crossroads 54-23
Feb. 4: won vs. Barat 65-40
Feb. 5: lost vs. Principia 48-44
Feb. 10: won vs. Hancock 67-59
Feb. 11: lost vs. John Burroughs 51-40
Feb. 12: lost vs. Cleveland NJROTC 65-46
Feb. 13: won at Bayless 63-50
Upcoming
Feb. 17: host Valley Park

Coach Kevin Kullum talks to the Eagles during a timeout in the fourth period.
Coach Kevin Kullum talks to the Eagles during a timeout in the fourth period.

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