Sunday, December 28, 2014

Speed Defeats Size, as Brady Races Past Pembroke

Bishop Brady vs. Pembroke. It's always been a rivalry, but in boys basketball it reached a new level when the Bell brothers Jourdain and Joe showed up at Brady and joined Brendan Johnson to form the 'Big 3'. Pembroke is now in D-I, so these teams are no longer in the same division. But thanks to the Capital Area Holiday Tournament the rivalry lives on. Jourdain Bell and Johnson are now seniors though, and while they took the Spartans to overtime last year they have never beaten Pembroke - until now.

Jourdain Bell dropped a game-high 24 points and Johnson had 22. The 2 of them combined to shoot 17/27 from the floor (a blistering 63%) and 6/13 from 3-point range (46%). Pembroke was bigger at all 5 positions on the floor, but Brady was faster at each. On Sunday night in front of a capacity crowd at NHTI, speed defeated size as Brady wins 61-47 in the tournament semi-finals to end the Spartan's 15 game winning streak.

"We know they're big, but we're much faster than them and played with so much heart" said Johnson, who is also the star quarterback on the Bishop Brady football team. "All 5 of us are good shooters. Aaron Svendsen played his heart out and played great defense. Matt Quirk, Jourdain, Joe and myself - we all played great."

Joe Bell sat the final 7 minutes of the 2nd quarter with 2 fouls. Other than that the starting 5 (the Bell brothers, Johnson, Quirk and Svendsen) played the entire game. Plus this was their second game in as many nights. But did they get tired down the stretch? Nope. In fact, that's when they broke the game open as the Giants went on a 12-4 run in the 3rd quarter and an 11-2 run in the 4th. In fact, neither team went very deep with their benches, as Pembroke only went 6 deep and had 4 different kids play 30+ minutes (Connor Boucher, Dominic Timbas, Cameron Taylor and Rob Wilson). Neither team went deep into their benches, yet Brady is the team that made the 2nd half runs. That is a credit to their conditioning and stamina.

"We focused on making smarter plays, like stopping and taking a pull-up jumper instead of going all the way to the basket and get called for a charge" said Jourdain Bell, who is arguably the best player in the NHIAA. "We wanted to keep running - we knew we weren't going to win if we played in the half court."

Brady used their tremendous team speed to wreak havoc on both ends of the court. They used pressure defense to force Pembroke into an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers. And anytime the Giants got a turnover or a defensive rebound they looked to run, finishing in transition time and time again.

"We wanted to take advantage of our speed and quickness" said Bishop Brady first-year head coach Cole Etten. "Pembroke is a great team. And we know they're big so we wanted to get up and down the floor and run. We executed very well on the defensive end to force turnovers."

Right from the get-go Brady was looking to run. Johnson threw a quick pass ahead on the fast break to Joe Bell, who went hard to the rim before gliding in for the layup. Jourdain Bell finished a reverse layup in traffic, and meanwhile for Pembroke, Wilson had a pair of strong finishes inside so we were tied 4-4 early. Then Brady started firing it from the outside, as Johnson buried a 3 to make it 7-4. Pembroke kept pounding it inside to strong, wide 6-foot-7 senior Wilson, who scored again to make it 7-6 Brady. On a baseline out of bounds play Johnson made a heads up move by throwing the ball off the back of a Pembroke player, stepping inbounds, catching the ball and laying it in. Jourdain Bell hit a 3, and just seconds later grabbed a steal, went hard to the rim before drawing a foul. Soon it was 15-6 Giants.

Timbas (team-high 21 points on 8/11 shooting) took it strong to the rim for 2. Johnson then hit a tough pull-up jumper from the foul line with a hand right in his face. Timbas answered right back with an offensive rebound and put-back. On the next trip down Timbas again went hard to the rim but this time was called for an offensive foul, with Joe Bell drawing the charge. Max Curran made a nice block for Pembroke, and after 1 quarter it was 17-12 Brady.

Brady was doing a nice job of attacking the rim, and with Pembroke being a step slower the Spartans were picking up lots of fouls. Less than a minute into the 2nd quarter Pembroke was already in the bonus so Brady was shooting 1-and-1. The 6-foot-8 Curran hit an 18-footer off the catch to cut the Brady lead to 17-16, capping a 10-2 Pembroke run. Jourdain Bell drilled another 3-pointer, but Curran answered right back with a tip-in. Timbas finished a layup off a baseline out of bounds play and we were tied up 20-20. Brady goes right back ahead 22-20 on a layup by Svendsen (10 points and 12 rebounds). Timbas countered with a nice move, using a crossover dribble to create space before burying a pull-up jumper from the elbow and we were again tied, 23-23.

Both teams kept pushing the ball and hitting shots, as Jourdain Bell hit another 3, Timbas nailed an 18-footer and Johnson hit a pull-up jumper from the foul line. With under a minute left in the 1st half, Brady slowed things down, working the ball around to find a good shot. They found Johnson on the right wing for another 3-pointer and it was 31-25 Giants at halftime. Johnson had 13 points in the 1st half and Jourdain Bell had 12, so the 2 of them combined for 25 which is the total amount of points Pembroke had as a team.

Timbas continued to have a strong game in the 3rd quarter. He made a nice move to create space before hitting a step-back jumper from 15 feet. Svendsen had an and-1 finish and it was 33-27 Brady. Wilson (12 points) hit a baseline jumper Curran picked up his 4th foul so he had to sit for the last 5 minutes of the quarter and Wilson tipped in a miss to cut the Brady lead to 35-31.

That's when Brady went on their 12-4 run, as their speed was really starting to become a factor. Jourdain Bell (who dished out 9 assists and had 4 steals and 4 rebounds in addition to his game-high 24 points) got the ball ahead to Johnson for another transition layup. That made it 39-31 Giants with 3:52 left in the 3rd quarter and forced Pembroke head coach Matt Alosa to call a timeout.

The Brady run continued out of the timeout though, as Svendsen made a nice block on a shot attempt inside by Taylor. Jourdain Bell drilled another 3, Wilson answered with a bucket inside showing a soft shooting touch. Johnson countered quickly with a 15-footer, and then Jourdain Bell made a highlight reel play with a terrific steal before pushing it hard to the rim for an and-1 finish. That put Brady on top 47-35 with 1:10 left in the 3rd quarter, it was the Giants' largest lead so far. Jourdain Bell then made another great play, with a drive and dish to Svendsen for a layup. It was 49-39 Brady after 3 quarters.

Pembroke was fighting to mount a 4th quarter comeback, as Timbas drove to the rim for a strong finish and Curran drove inside before hitting a floater. That cut the Brady lead to 50-43. That's when Brady went on an 11-2 run to break the game wide open. Jourdain Bell made a great move to the rim, slicing his way through 3 defenders before hitting a tough scoop shot in traffic. Then he hit a mid-range jumper. Things continued to go the Giants' way, as Curran drove baseline and was called for an offensive foul, with Svendsen drawing the charge. Curran had fouled out. Jourdain Bell made yet another great dribble-drive move before hitting a step-back jumper.

Johnson put the exclamation mark on the victory, jumping the passing lane to grab a steal and then racing up the floor with the ball for a layup. That made it 61-45 Brady with just 1:30 left in the 4th quarter. The Giants' fans were sent in a frenzy, and Johnson pumped his fist as he ran back on defense. Johnson plays with a ton of emotion and passion and doesn't back down from anybody, he's a fun player to watch. Brady cruises from there for the 61-47 win.

With the win, Brady cements their position as the team to beat this year in D-II. They advance to the Capital Area Holiday Tournament championship game on Monday night vs. Merrimack Valley. Brady will be a heavy favorite in that game.

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