IAC basketball: Bullis holds off Episcopal to claim third straight tournament title

Senior Aaron Briggs and Russell Sangster lead the offense and lock down on defense to power No. 2 Bullis past Episcopal for a third straight IAC title. (Cesar Souza for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post/The Washington Post)
February 22

As the final seconds ticked away in Saturday’s Interstate Athletic Conference final, Bullis Coach Bruce Kelley pulled his starters off the floor, hugged each individually and said a few words to each of the seven seniors on the roster.

Known for his emotional nature on the sideline, Kelley let it all out as the Bulldogs topped Episcopal, 63-52, on their home floor in Potomac to win their third straight tournament title.

The victory gave the No. 2 Bulldogs (24-3) their 29th consecutive conference win, including tournament games. Their last IAC loss came on Jan. 31, 2012 against Episcopal.

“It was just a joy for me walking down the bench at the end,” Kelley said. “Every one of those guys has a story, and as a high school coach I’m really into the growth business as I help these guys before they go off to college.”

Senior guards Aaron Briggs and Russell Sangster are both four-year players at Bullis and have been at the school since the eighth grade. They combined for 40 points in the win.

Briggs, a Navy recruit, has gone from strictly a shooter to a point guard with terrific ball handling skills over the course of the season, but his outside stroke was on display on Saturday as he knocked down four three-pointers en route to 19 points. Sangster scored a game-high 21.

He and Briggs were tasked with guarding Episcopal standout Greg Malinowski who’s been torching opponents to the tune of 24.5 points per game this season. Although, Malinowski led the Maroon with 20 points, the Bulldogs limited him to two points over the final three minutes of the game.

“It was a very tough challenge but Coach said the power of three is bigger than the power of one, so our focus was all on him,” Briggs said.

Hofstra commit Andre Walker, who was forced to sit out a year when he transferred to Bullis as a junior, added another double-double performance to a season full of them. He scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.

The teams were in a dogfight for the first three quarters with Bullis clinging to a 46-41 lead after 24 minutes. Midway through the fourth, the Maroon (17-10) cut the deficit to two points. But Briggs answered with back-to-back three-pointers to all but put the game out of reach.

Bullis will next play in the inaugural Maryland Private High School Tournament in early March.

“We have to show out in that tournament,” Sangster said. “We’re not finished. We’re still craving to win and we’re trying to come out and win that too.”

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