In the minds of some of Wakefield’s players, Coach Tony Bentley had lost it. After a 50-49 defeat at the hands of AAA National District foe Hayfield on Jan. 4 — a game in which Bentley felt his team lacked discipline and focus — the Warriors coach told his players to not bother coming to the locker room for a week; the doors would be locked.
“At first, I was like he’s just saying stuff,” said senior guard Khory Moore, “but then after we got dressed, he locked the door and we never saw the locker room again for a week.”
The next day’s practice consisted almost entirely of conditioning. For scrimmages and drills during the week, the players traded in their practice uniforms for shirts and skins.
“I told them they weren’t worthy to wear anything with the name ‘Wakefield’ on it. That takes a sense of pride that they weren’t showing,” Bentley said. “I was actually looking for some old, 1990 uniforms for them to wear but the shorts were too short.”
While some assistant coaches jokingly called him “Coach Carter” — a reference to the movie inspired by the California coach who locked out his players until their grades improved — Bentley was confident his unique move would pay dividends. It did in 2007, when Wakefield turned its coach’s strong message into a trip to the state tournament. And it appears to have done so this time, with the Warriors winning their last five games and moving into first place in the district.
“About three days into it, once we realized he was serious, we said that we’ve got to start playing better because we’re not good enough to pick and choose when we want to turn it on in a game,” Moore said.
Believe it not, part of improving the team’s play included having more fun as well as getting Moore and leading scorer Ermias Nega (15.3 points per game) to involve their teammates more on offense.
“I was being a tough disciplinarian and that’s not me. I’m in the middle, and I think we found our balance during that week,” said Bentley. “Now, we’re back to having fun and guys like Khory and Ermias have bought into doing what it takes to win over anything else.”
After taking on Mount Vernon on Monday, the Warriors will engage in a critical rematch with Hayfield. What’s more, the contest marks Wakefield’s final home game before three road contests to end the regular season.
Next year, along with the school’s renovation, Wakefield will move into a new gym. In commemoration of the old court, Wakefield has invited players and teams from the last 60 years to be recognized before Tuesday’s final regular season home game.
At the time, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about Lake Braddock’s 68-58 win against South County on Jan. 4. But now, with the Bruins’ riding newfound chemistry to six wins in their last seven games, Will Gregorits can see just how important it was that four scorers reached double figures during that first game of 2013.
“Going into the season, we had lost six seniors, we had put some new things in our offense and we didn’t really understand our chemistry and strengths and weaknesses,” the junior forward said. “In the South County game, we had a lot of guys stepping up. Now we have a better understanding of what we all can do.”
For Gregorits, that means holding his own in the paint, where he’s recording most of his 16.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. When Gregorits wasn’t leading the Bruins in scoring during four of their last six wins, Reagan Jones and Noah Rudisin stepped up to pace Lake Braddock in points and expand the team’s options.
“We’re very young, so it’s taken a while to find our way,” Bruins Coach Brian Metress said. “The Northern Region is wide open and in order to be competitive, you have to be a team that’s getting better; you can’t be the same team you were on Dec. 1. We’re getting better because of our youth and chemistry coming together.”