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January 16, 2014

#1 Bruton Stays Unbeaten

Final - - #1 Bruton 74, Lafayette 39:

Not much has slowed the Bruton Panthers down this season. Entering Wednesday night's home tilt with the Lafayette Rams, the Bay Rivers District program currently ranked #1 in the state in Group 2A by VirginiaPreps.com and has been there ever since the preseason had outscored opponents by a whopping margin of 806-410.

All they did in the second meeting with Lafayette, a team they routed 87-37 on the road in the season opener, was get up double-figures less than three minutes into the game and never look back. Bruton recorded another convincing victory, their tenth by double-digits, winning 74-39 to improve to 11-0 overall.

"We have personal goals in-house that we like to live by," noted Bruton Head Basketball Coach Joe Dillard. "That keeps us with a goal and focus all year. Everybody knows we like to get up and down on offense. Being a defensive-minded coach, we like to hold teams under 40. That's a goal they come out every game trying to accomplish, and both games vs. Lafayette this year they did that in fact."

Serving as the catalysts for a well-balanced Panthers team all season long have been guards Marcus Carter and Lonnie Swinton, both entering contest #11 averaging over 17 points per game. Each is a Player of the Year candidate deserving of All-State consideration, and neither minded watching their teammates get some of the shine while they sat the bench for two-quarters plus apiece once Bruton built a 17-point lead going into the second period.

"They've made us become a 15-person team. They're unselfish and they're the leaders. I told them that last game. You're being a leader and you're capable of scoring 30 every night," Dillard stated of his terrific backcourt tandem.

"To hand it over to your partner in crime as I like to call it, that shows your unselfishness. You're not worried about your stats alone, and that has had a domino [effect] with everybody. They cheer each other on and you can't do nothing but applaud that."

Junior 5-foot-8 guard Shaquan Edwards ended up being the game's leading scorer with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting while tallying three assists. James Madison football commit Kapri Doucet chipped in 10 points. A total of 14 players saw action, ten of which scored.

What do the Panthers attribute their fantastic season to thus far?

"Our defense and taking off in the first quarter," Carter replied. "We have to set the tone in the first quarter. Once we get our defense straight, everything starts to roll. The bench gets into it, the crowd gets into it and the offense comes along, and that keeps us motivated to keep playing."

Last year in the Group AA Division 3 State Tournament semifinals, Spotswood rallied from 14 points down to beat the Panthers 70-69 in a game where Bruton made 22-of-24 from the foul line. That heart-breaking defeat has fueled them ever since, and they've kept on winning, even beating the likes of bigger schools to capture the Hampton Roads Fall League Championship.

"After that loss, we knew the next day it was grind season for the next year. We came back in the gym I think the day or two after that, started putting up shots and knew that we would have most of the team coming back, had a chance and would be one of the top teams in the state," Carter added.

"This is the year we need to get it and our year to get it actually. As long as we keep playing as one team, we shouldn't lose a game. We want to keep winning and get back to that spot."

Player of the Game: Bruton G Marcus Carter - - A compelling case could be made for Edwards since he was the game's high scorer, but it was Carter's seven-point stretch in a span of 13 seconds late in the first quarter that seemed to be the early knockout punch that the Rams never recovered from.

Carter gave his best Reggie Miller at Madison Square Garden impression. Those that managed to blink or turn away for a brief moment missed the scoring barrage.

"It just started off with the defense, our full-court press. [We] got a couple steals, a couple lay-ups right there and a three-pointer before the ball went out of bounds. It was mostly the defense that helped out and got us the easy points," commented Carter.

Drawing interest from Division I schools Monmouth and Towson as well as a host of D-2 and D-3 programs, Carter ranks among the top players in the state from the Class of 2014 without a D-1 offer to date. He finished up with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, made 2-of-3 from long distance with the miss just popping out at the end, and contributed a couple of blocks to go with four steals. Had he played three quarters or more, it could've easily been a 25 or 30-point performance.

Keys to Victory:

#1 - - Jump on the Opposition Fast: There's no secret that Bruton wants to beat opponents by a wide margin and take away any doubt what the outcome will be as soon as possible. They did that against Lafayette by going up 15-0 before the Rams scored their first points with 4:28 to play in the opening quarter.

"I'm not certain of the new number now, but I last recorded it at 149-38 and that was first quarter scores. We're talking about this first quarter and the Windsor one, and that does nothing but add on. I'm pretty sure we've held [teams] under 50 points in the first quarter this year in 11 games," Dillard revealed.

"A fast start always puts you in a position to be successful, and takes kind of the money off your back. We've shown we can play in tough games, but as a coach you don't want to do that game in and game out."

After only outscoring Lafayette 14-9 in a second period that was below average for Bruton's standards, the Panthers opened the third quarter on a 12-0 run. Lafayette's first points of the second half didn't come until the 4:38 mark, just ten seconds earlier that what happened in the opening stanza.

#2 - - Aggressive Defense:
Defense wins Championships. Only two teams - - Grafton and Warhill - - have scored more than 50 on the Panthers, and let's be honest, they have the talent to do it with the Lions possessing the Bay Rivers' top scorer in DeVonte Dedmon and the Clippers coming off back-to-back appearances in the State Championship game.

Bruton came at Lafayette with multiple presses and traps, never allowing the Rams to get comfortable.

"A lot of coaches most games will only see one or two defenses. We can run up to maybe about six defenses, and we flip them up every time they call a time-out and keep them on their heels," stated Carter.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Bruton's defensive success in the first half was that they kept Lafayette off the foul line for all 16 minutes.

"We focus on moving our feet and keeping our arms long," Dillard said. "We still have a couple that like to touch and commit two-hand fouls, but that's with the new enforcement of the hand-touch. They're going to think about us fouling before we walk in the gym, so it's important we work on those drills like defensive slides. It's starting to show over on the court and in the game."

#3 - - Dominate on the Backboards: By night's end, Bruton had a commanding 44-22 advantage on the backboards. Considering that the Panthers came out connecting on their shots, sinking 8-of-14 from the field in the first quarter, and forced 24 turnovers for the game, the category that Lafayette needed to stay close in or perhaps even win to avoid a blowout was rebounding.

Bruton kept Lafayette to only six offensive rebounds for the entire contest. Unsung seniors Darius Brown (6-foot-2) and Mike Sangalang (6-foot-tall) combined for 15 boards by themselves.

Milestone Moment: Earlier in the month, Carter eclipsed 1000 career points at Bruton, joining his dad Brenner Carter, a 1978 grad and current Panthers assistant coach, as the only ones to ever achieve the milestone in school history. The accomplishment came back on January 8th during the team's first home game of the season vs. New Kent.

"It means a lot and that I put in a lot of work over the four years here at Bruton. I know a lot of people thought I was going to different private schools or anywhere else. But just for staying here, I know I felt I would play better in this gym and with the people around me. I guess it is a great achievement to keep playing here and actually do it in our first home game here."

Postgame Audio with Bruton Coach Joe Dillard
Postgame Audio with Bruton's Marcus Carter

Final Stats:

Bruton Panthers 74: (11-0 Overall)
Shaquan Edwards - - 15Pts. 7-12FG, 1-3 3's, 2Reb. 3Ast. 2Stl.
Marcus Carter - - 12Pts. 5-7FG, 2-3 3's, 5Reb. 2Blk. 4Stl.
Kapri Doucet - - 10Pts. 3-5FG, 4-4FT, 3Reb. 2Stl.
Mike Sangalang - - 8Pts. 4-6FG, 5Reb.
Daniel Jones - - 6Pts. 3-6FG, 4Reb. 3Ast. 2Stl.

Lafayette Rams 39: (5-7 Overall)
Mark Rivera - - 14Pts. 7-10FG, 3Reb.
C.J. Miller - - 7Pts. 2-5FG, 3-3FT, 2Stl.
Tyriq Graham - - 6Pts. 2-4 3's, 3Reb.

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday from 10AM to Noon on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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