In the first quarter of the Mount Vernon Holiday Invitational championship game Saturday night, Battlefield looked frustrated as its every strength was countered perfectly.
The Bobcats’ run-and-gun offense was slowed to a standstill by Oakton’s zone, and their man-to-man defense was sliced apart by the Cougars’ sharpshooters and drive-and-dish approach. As a result, the Bobcats trailed by 14 points after eight minutes.
Then Battlefield adjusted.
With a change in defense and a shift in offensive strategy, the Bobcats held Oakton scoreless through the entire second quarter and half of the third. They also found just enough ways to pick apart the Cougars’ zone to sneak away with a 45-41 win.
“Even if we weren’t hitting shots offensively, we can always control how we play defensively,” said Battlefield guard Trevor Blondin, who led all scorers with 18 points. “We really focused on defense to shut them down.”
After a first-quarter shooting performance in which Oakton hit four straight threes to start the game and missed only one jump shot — a would-be quarter-ending buzzer-beater — the Bobcats (6-4) opted to apply more pressure with a half-court trap. The move flustered the Cougars, who found themselves pinned between two Battlefield defenders and the sideline again and again, forced to make miraculous passes just to avoid jump balls and unable to find players in solid shooting position as their 22-8 lead disappeared.
“We were scrambling and trapping,” said Bobcats guard Jamison Glover, who added 11 points. “We turned up the pressure on them, and they couldn’t handle it.”
On offense, Battlefield began attacking the zone rather than trying to pass around it. While the result wasn’t exactly an explosion, the Bobcats clawed their way back through the second and third quarters and took a 23-22 lead before Oakton managed a single bucket.
“That was the first zone we’d faced all tournament,” Blondin said. “We like to get up and down, play at a fast pace and create off the dribble. I think we really executed in the second half and got to the basket more.”
That approach helped salvage a weak outside shooting effort by creating high-percentage shots. Of Battlefield’s 29 second-half points, 12 came from the free throw line and 14 came in the paint.
Though the Cougars (7-2) rallied with more points in the game’s final three minutes (10) than they had scored in the previous two and a half quarters, Battlefield hit enough free throws to hold off Oakton’s charge.
“When they came out, I was thinking ‘This is crazy,’ ” Glover said. “I was thinking there’s no way they can be shooting this well. But eventually they had to stop making those threes, and we really picked up on defense.”