Bullis effectively shutdown Episcopal’s courtside luminaries Kethan Savage and Arnaud Adala Moto, but they couldn’t keep rising stars Doug Chappell and Brennan McCann from stealing the show during Tuesday’s win.
“Bullis did a very nice job of playing a zone or jump defense heavily focused on [Savage],” said coach Jim Fitzpatrick. “We’re going to spread the floor, move the ball, but if guys are open on the perimeter, we’re going to them. When [Savage and Adala Moto] were stopped, finding the open man was pivotal.”
More often than not, the open man was Chappell, McCann or any one of a slew of players who have been overshadowed by the success of the two seniors. By halftime, the No. 10 Maroon enjoyed a 41-25 lead over No. 5 Bullis that included an uninterrupted 6-point run in the first quarter.
But a three-point field goal from 6-foot-6 Bulldogs senior Nigel Pruitt milliseconds before the buzzer should have served as a warning shot. When the two squads jogged onto the court for the final 16 minutes of play, Bullis came out firing.
Led by junior point guard Anthony Thompson and his impeccable ability to shoot a three-pointer from anywhere on the court, the Bulldogs roared back into a game that seemed well out of reach a quarter before.
“When they were down they brought a lot of energy,” said Savage, who was limited to 11 points in the victory. “They had nothing to lose – they caught us off guard.”
After starting with an unanswered 9-point run to narrow the score 41-34, Bullis hung tough and steadily climbed back into the game. They enjoyed the lead once — and briefly — before the Maroon’s defense solidified in the face of their onslaught.
“We needed to bring the tempo back up,” said McCann, a 5-foot-10 junior guard. “My job, I just needed to hit shots late in the game, set the tempo and play defense.”
And as the defense stiffened, McCann and Chappell stepped up to make the baskets Episcopal sorely lacked early in the second half. The turning point came minutes into the fourth, Adala Moto hitting a layup while simultaneously drawing the foul. Seconds later, McCann nailed a three-pointer on a pass from Adala Moto to give Episcopal a 9-point advantage against Bullis.
Then came Chappell’s turn, hitting the net for two after a Bullis turnover, earning the Maroon a bit of a respite with a double-digit lead. Pondering the game afterward, the junior guard didn’t consider the Bulldog’s resurgent third quarter much of a surprise, nor did he the Maroon’s response.
“We sort of just slowed down on defense, our momentum dropped. We thought we had the game won by the first half,” Chappell said. “Often times, third quarters are kind of slow [for us]. I know we’re going to pick it up in the fourth.”
Though Bullis would cut Episcopal’s lead back down to just a handful of points, from that moment on it was an all-but-inevitable slide to a 76-68 Maroon victory, their third against the Bulldogs this season. Savage, who played a complete 32 minutes, knew exactly who deserved the credit.
“Fortunately, we’re deep on the bench,” he said. “We had some great players come off the bench for us.”
The Maroon take their 15-2 record (6-1 in the Interstate Athletic Conference), down the street to St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes Friday before wrapping up the regular season against Georgetown Prep and St. Albans.