Eagles mount comeback but Butters fouls out on charging call
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
It would have made a great story: The Brentwood High School boys basketball team ends six years of losing to Maplewood-Richmond Heights by defeating them in the district playoffs. And they do it like they did it in 2010, by avenging a regular-season loss.
For a few minutes it looked like it might happen. Playing the Blue Devils in the first round of the district playoffs on Monday at John Burroughs, the Eagles in less than 2 minutes cut an 11-point gap to five with 1:46 left in the game. MRH wisely called a timeout, presumably to discuss how to stop Justice Harris from getting turnovers off the press. Brentwood’s junior guard had made three steals in 90 seconds to fuel the comeback.
“Justice, that’s my guy,” Brentwood assistant coach Dennis Buckley said later. “Great on-ball defender, a super athlete, just a freakish athlete. He doesn’t even really understand how much of an athlete he is.”
But just as the Eagles were surging, disaster struck. Their leading scorer, Charles “Butters” Jones, picked up two quick fouls, including his fifth on a charging call. With 1:20 left, he was done.
With time running out, Brentwood had to foul and Maplewood made most of its free throws, winning 68-65. Top-seeded Whitfield went on to beat MRH by 10 in the semifinals and John Burroughs by 10 in the Class 3 District 4 championship.
The Eagles trudged quietly to the locker room carrying some of the weight of the program’s seventh straight loss to MRH over six seasons. A week earlier they had wrapped up their fourth consecutive conference title, which the program hasn’t done in at least 35 years. But on this night it must have felt more like a season that would be remembered for two close losses to a Maplewood team that finally looked beatable.
Fourth-seeded Brentwood entered the game with a much better record, 11-12, than fifth-seeded MRH’s 4-18. But the Blue Devils were perhaps better seasoned, having played mostly Class 4 teams, and one from Class 5, since Jan. 28. Over that same span the Eagles’ opponents were all from Classes 3 and 2.
After the game and a final team meeting, head coach Kevin Kullum emerged from the locker room at Burroughs looking somber. Asked how heartbreaking the loss was, he replied, “Aw, this is really heartbreaking. We really wanted to beat them. But hey, we played hard, no complaints.”
Actually he did have a complaint. Though MRH was whistled for five more fouls than BHS in total, Kullum thought Jones’s fourth and fifth fouls were unfair.
“They called a couple of cheapies on him,” said Kullum. “That offensive foul [Jones’s fifth] shouldn’t have been called. I felt like it wasn’t a charge.”
Agreed Jones, “That was not a charge.” But he wished he’d changed his strategy after picking up three fouls in the first half. I should have just started shooting the mid-range jump shot, which would have been easy.”
But maybe that’s nitpicking. Jones ended up with 27 points, making six of eight field goals and 15 of 17 free throws. Maplewood’s Nate Grady-Liska once again served as the Eagle slayer, scoring 32 points, way over his 14-a-game average. He’s also the one who sank a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat BHS on Jan. 21.
Coach Buckley was disappointed after the game but tried to put things in perspective.
“I told them all I love them, hard fought season, appreciate all the effort they gave from the beginning to the end,” he said. “I hate that it ended on this note but, you know, you play the game and you’ve got to have a winner, you gotta have a loser. I’m pleased with how far we’ve come since the beginning of the season. Effort wasn’t the issue tonight; the guys left it on the floor and that’s all you could ask.”
Sappington, Butters among leaders
Two Eagles are among the leaders in three statistical categories in the St. Louis area. Skylar Sappington’s 9.38 assists per game is ranked No. 2 and his 3.08 steals per game is No. 9. Charles Jones’s 19.6 points per game is ranked 20th.
Feb. 22: lost to Maplewood-Richmond Heights 68-65
MRH took the lead for good in the second quarter with a 24-14 run, sparked by Patrick Booker’s three 3-pointers by. Key stat: The Eagles had 25 more rebounds but the Blue Devils made six more three-pointers, led by William Brunson’s and Ramone Agard’s combined 5-for-9. BHS leaders: Charles Jones, 27 points (6-8 FG, 15-17 FT); Cade Jones, 16 points (6-9 FG); Skylar Sappington, 12 rebounds, 10 assists; Jacob Menne, 4 blocks; Aro Ntatin, 6 steals. MRH leaders: Nate Grady-Liska, 32 points (9-14 FG, 13-18 FT), 5 steals; Kyle Morris, 8 rebounds.
Brentwood’s final 2015-16 record: 11-13
Nov. 30: beat Crossroads 63-23 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 3: lost to Kennedy 53-47 in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 4: beat Principia 54-44 for 3rd place in Valley Park Invitational
Dec. 7: beat McKinley 69-26
Dec. 15: lost to Orchard Farm 73-66
Dec. 23: lost to Francis Howell 77-40 at MICDS Holiday Invitational
Dec. 26: lost to MICDS 78-61 at MICDS Holiday Invitational
Dec. 28: lost to Clayton 71-46 at MICDS Holiday Invitational
Jan. 5: lost to Lift for Life 66-53
Jan. 12: beat Crossroads 54-30
Jan. 14: lost to St. Pius X-Festus 58-43
Jan. 21: lost to MRH 51-48
Jan. 26: beat Bayless 81-60
Jan. 27: lost to Trinity 66-58
Jan. 29: beat Valley Park 66-50
Feb. 2: beat Crossroads 60-28
Feb. 4: lost to Principia 52-39
Feb. 9: beat Hancock 68-60
Feb. 10: lost to John Burroughs 66-40
Feb. 11: lost to Cleveland NJROTC 45-41
Feb. 12: beat Bayless 69-55
Feb. 16: beat Valley Park 49-48
Feb. 17: beat Hancock 62-56
District playoffs at John Burroughs:
Feb. 22: lost to MRH 68-65