When John Nice gathered a pass on the left wing in the waning seconds of Tuesday’s game against W.T. Woodson, the Lake Braddock senior saw little, if anything, that made him feel good about the shot he was about to hoist.
Despite rolling off a pick, barely any space separated Nice from the Woodson defender shadowing him. And while the stepback dribble he took helped some, it left Nice slightly drifting backward as he floated up the three-point attempt. But even amid the imperfect circumstances, Nice exuded a confidence that made him the perfect player for the moment, the Bruins down two with less than 10 seconds left.
“I did hesitate a little because I didn’t have much room,” Nice said, “but after being cold in the first half, I had made a three on the shot before that, so I had my confidence back and it felt good when I shot it.”
Nice’s good feeling translated into euphoria for Lake Braddock, as he drained the three-pointer to lift the No. 19 Bruins to a 59-58 win over the Cavaliers. The victory gives Lake Braddock control of first place in the Virginia Conference 7 standings with three games remaining.
Tuesday’s game was held at South County as W.T. Woodson’s gym undergoes repair for a burst pipe, making it a road game for both teams, who appeared uncomfortable at the outset.
The Bruins’ zone defense kept the Cavaliers out of the paint and reliant on jump shots, while Lake Braddock (15-3, 8-1 in Conference 7) struggled to finish at the rim despite its size advantage.
That changed early in the second period, when Will Gregorits (19 points) threw down a dunk, sparking a run along with forward Reagan Jones to outscore Woodson 17-9 in the second quarter and move the Bruins ahead by six at halftime.
“Our rebounding and play inside was big with Will and Reagan,” said Nice, who finished with 12 points. “We started getting a lot more opportunities when they got going.”
Lake Braddock extended its lead to 10 points before the Cavaliers (12-6, 6-2) surged back behind guards Eric Bowles and Matt Ayoub. While Bowles (23 points) used his quickness to slice through Lake Braddock’s zone defense and score on tough layups, Ayoub got hot from the outside, draining five three-pointers to put Woodson up by two with less than six minutes to play.
With the Bruins jockeying to regain control, Nice drained his first three of the night followed by two free throws, pushing Lake Braddock back ahead and, more importantly, setting the stage for the game winner.
The teams traded baskets until Woodson missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the foul line. With two plays previously drawn up by Bruins Coach Brian Metress at their disposal, Nice’s number was called and the senior delivered with his third field goal in the final two minutes.
“I give our guys credit for executing the right play and to John for making a tough shot,” Metress said. “This is a big win against a great team and it gives us confidence where we can kind of control our own destiny during these next two weeks going into the playoffs.”