By Matt Cohen
The B-CC Barons boys basketball team entered the 2017-18 season with high expectations. Returning three productive starters, Gordon Gibson, Miles English and Thomas Baer, and adding two transfers, Justin Graves, and 4-star recruit Elijah Wood, this team seemed destined for success this year.
The problems that plagued B-CC last year, turnovers, surfaced yet again as an area of difficulty for the Barons. B-CC faced a brutal two game stretch to open the season, Paint Branch followed by Springbrook. Despite turnovers galore, B-CC escaped from Paint Branch with a win as Gordon Gibson hit the winning jump shot. Against Springbrook, turnovers were the catalyst for Cam Rucker and the Blue Devils offense, as they dominated the Barons.
Turnovers were again the reason why B-CC was dominated by Gaithersburg, the surprise team in Montgomery County so far this season. B-CC dropped the game against the Trojans 76-57.
Wood, who was highly regarded for his passing touch, was the main culprit of these turnovers. As the Barons tried to play fast in stretches, turnovers killed the momentum they had. Many teams ran full court press against the Barons, a game plan B-CC struggled against, especially against Springbrook. It seemed that the 2017-18 season was quickly becoming the disappointing 2016-17 season.
B-CC had a 12 point win over Rockville ahead of its toughest test of the early season, the Washington Post 10th ranked Bullis Bulldogs.
Both Bullis and B-CC were without their star in this game. Bullis guard Vado Morse was out with a leg injury, while Barons center Gordon Gibson missed the game with a shoulder injury. Neither team was deterred by the injuries, as they each have players around them. Bullis had Lincoln Yeutter and Nendah Tarke, while B-CC had Baer, English and Wood.
The two teams traded small runs for nearly the entirety of the game. In the first quarter, the two teams traded basket for basket. The lead changed three times in the first quarter alone. When the first quarter ended, B-CC held an 11-10 lead.
In the second quarter, B-CC built a small lead, and Bullis responded to take a lead of its own very quickly. With the score tied at 26 as halftime neared, Bullis’ Nendah Tarke and Lincoln Yeutter took control, and led Bullis on an 8-2 run to close the half. Bullis took a 34-28 lead into the break.
B-CC saw the turnovers continue in the first half of the game. Tarke scored 15 first half points, nearly all of them coming in transition after a B-CC turnover. Turnovers propelled Bullis on its run at the end of the first half. B-CC needed to find a way to limit the turnovers without its big man.
That’s exactly what the Barons did.
B-CC took control of the game right back in the third quarter. The Barons started the half on an 8-2 of their own, tying the game at 36. B-CC kept the momentum going, and took the lead right afterwards, as Miles English hit a long two point jumper. The B-CC crowd, which outnumbered that of Bullis in the Bulldogs’ own gym, turned up the volume, and helped push their team to extend the lead even further. B-CC closed the third quarter strong, outscoring Bullis 20-9 in the quarter, to take a 48-43 lead into the final frame.
Bullis came right back in the fourth quarter. With 3:25 left in the game, Bullis had cut the deficit to just two points.
Kevin McAuliffe gave B-CC a 56-51 lead after layup in transition, but Tarke responded on the other end with a bucket, making it just a three point game. Bullis got the defensive stop it needed, but the B-CC defense was just as strong. The Barons blocked two straight three point attempts by Yeutter as he looked to tie the game. With 10 second left, Yeutter dove to rebound a missed shot from a teammate, and called timeout in mid-air. The great call gave the Bulldogs a chance to set a play. Bullis put the ball in the hands of Yeutter, and allowed him to take the three point shot needed to tie the game. Bullis passed the ball in, and got it to Yeutter. 9…8…7… Yeutter dribbled to create space for his shot. Yeutter put up the game tying shot, slowly sailing towards the basket. 5…4… Yeutter’s shot hit the rim, and bounced off. English, who stood below the basket, leaped for the ball. With Bullis players fighting for the rebound as well, English reached out, and grasped the ball. 2…1… English came down and was immediately fouled by a Bulldog. 0.8 seconds remaining.
With B-CC in the bonus, English went to the line with a chance to make it a two possession game. English hit both free throws for B-CC, and sealed a 58-53 win for the Barons.
B-CC improved to 4-2 with the win, and will head to New Jersey for a holiday tournament. On January 2nd, the Barons will face Whitman in the first game back in the B-CC gym.
In the second half against Bullis, for the first time this season, the talented B-CC group finally put it all together. Wood played his best game of the season. Wood scored 11 points, but more importantly, showed off the passing he has been commended for. Wood took a step towards becoming the true point guard B-CC has been searching for.
The other big key to win was the play of English. English scored a team leading 15 points, but he was crucial in filling in for Gibson. English was tabbed as B-CC top rebounder in the game, and did an excellent job in the role.
Graves, the other key transfer to B-CC, played a fantastic game. Graves had two and-ones, and both came at critical points in the game. Graves was excellent inside the arc, and Bullis struggled to slow him down. Graves finished with 13 points.
Kevin McAuliffe continued to emerge as a great outside shooter for the Barons along with Baer. Baer and McAuliffe on the wings form a dangerous duo for Wood and Graves to kick out to.
B-CC also played well on defense. Especially late in the game, the Barons defense made the crucial stops it needed, whether it be blocking two Yeutter three point attempts, or securing the game sealing rebound.
This was easily the most complete, and best performance B-CC has turned out this season, and it was against the best team the Barons have faced this year, even without Morse. The fantastic second half played by the Barons showed that the hype put on this team in the preseason was not unwarranted. The Barons have arrived.