Anthony Thompson dribbled slowly at the top of the key, his eyes darting back and forth between the expiring clock and the St. Albans defense. An isolation play had been called for the Bullis senior but with the score knotted at eight and the momentum in flux during the first quarter of Saturday’s Interstate Athletic Conference championship, Thompson had other plans.
“I knew whenever I attacked, they would collapse on me,” Thompson said. “So I just waited for the right moment, drove and kicked it to Aaron [Briggs] and I knew he would knock it down.”
The sequence resulted in a four-point play that swung the momentum. The No. 10 Bulldogs kept charging in the second quarter en route to a 63-61 win in Potomac. The victory marked Bullis’s second straight IAC tournament title and punctuated the first perfect run through IAC regular season and tournament play.
“This one is special because it’s hard to do what we did, going undefeated through the conference and staying focused while everyone is telling you how good you are,” Bullis Coach Bruce Kelley said. “So, the mental aspect of keeping it together really speaks to the type of team this is.”
St. Albans did all it could to threaten Bullis’s run at perfection, jumping out to a quick lead in the first four minutes. That’s when Bullis (23-4) got hot from the outside, with Briggs’s four-point play serving as one of three long-range buckets during a 15-0 run in the second quarter.
“Those threes played a big role for us,” said Briggs, who finished with nine points. “I feel like if we hadn’t hit those, we could have lost the game.”
After Thompson (15 points) hit a three to make it 31-20 at halftime, St. Albans’ Michael Sniezek kept his team competitive by scoring its first nine points of the third period. But for every shot he hit, Bullis had an answer, going up by as many as 16 midway through the quarter when Briggs nailed his second three of the game.
Shaky free-throw shooting by Bullis (7 for 13 in the fourth quarter) and a flurry of points by Brandon Galloway (10 of his 15 points) helped St. Albans (15-9) close the gap in the final minute. A putback and two free throws by Lloyd Howell made it 62-59 with five seconds remaining, but RussellSangster hit one of two free throws to seal yet another IAC crown for Bullis.
“To weather the storm of struggling early in the year to this game, when we had to fight to the last second, it’s special to win this year,” said Thompson, the championship net dangling from his neck. “It feels real good to end my high school career like this.”
“This one is special because it’s hard to do what we did, going undefeated through the conference and staying focused. ”
Bruce Kelley,Bullis coach