As a Latin teacher at Lake Braddock Secondary School, boys basketball coach Brian Metress employs all sorts of words and phrases that he leaves on the daily practice itinerary to confuse his players.
Metress and Co. either wouldn’t divulge or couldn’t recollect a specific word or phrase but nonetheless confirmed they exist.
Regardless, it’s a sound, not even a word that will mean the most for the Bruins this winter.
“We’re going to have to play this year with a little ‘oomph’ to us,” Metress said. “We’re going to have to manufacture some offense with our defense, and if we do that, I think that’ll be something that can separate us from everybody else.”
“Oomph is that extra bit when [the opponent] is tired and we’re not,” said senior point guard Dominic Morra, a four-year starter who averaged 16 points per game last season. “We just take over the game with that extra little bit, that extra run at the end of the game.”
Under the direction of Metress, who’s in his eighth year of work at the school, Lake Braddock doesn’t boast a player taller than 6-foot-3 and will look to rely on its speed to make a difference.
<b>METRESS HOPES</b> to play an aggressive game on defense, using turnovers and ill-advised passes to facilitate his team’s offense. A full-court press will be regularly employed and it’s a strategy that requires a lot of running, something that becomes difficult at the end of a game.
“We’re not going to get a steal every time, but if we rattle the other team’s point guard enough to where he’s making mistakes and he’s turning the ball over, that’ll turn into about 10 to 15 easy points per game,” said junior Patch McLucas.
“We’ve been working out and conditioning, and in practice we’re always running,” McLucas said, a 5-foot-4 defensive specialist who will be counted upon to deflect or intercept inbound pass after inbound pass. “We’re probably in the best shape we’ve ever been in, so that will help a lot.”
Ironically, Lake Braddock’s season ended last winter with the exact opposite approach. In the Patriot District final against T.C. Williams, Metress employed a ramped-down, stalling offense that looked more like a defense than anything did.
The goal was to limit the Titans’ possessions and to create one-on-one matchups that benefited Lake Braddock. At one point, Hobbs Petros, who’s now at the U.S. Naval Academy, held the ball under his arm for four minutes.
T.C. Williams ultimately pulled out a 26-20 win and again topped the Bruins in the Northern Region semifinals at George Mason’s Patriot Center.
<b>THE INNOVATIVE</b> game plan, although Lake Braddock never won with it, proved that Metress, who has been a head coach for 18 years in the Northern Region following a 10-year career at Hayfield, can and will do anything to win.
“You’ve got to be the team that’s trying to make things happen,” said Metress, whose team finished 17-9 overall, 8-6 in the Patriot District last season. “In our league, if you’re not a team that dictates the tempo of what’s going on, you’re going to get dictated to. There’s just too much ability.”
In addition to Morra and McLucas, seniors Jared Watson and Art Sinthorntham should provide some much-needed leadership along with junior Ryan Curtis. Look for Morra to assume the early-season role of scorer, at least until his teammates get acclimated to playing extensively at the varsity level.
A neighborhood rivalry matchup at Robinson on Dec. 5 will kick off the Bruins’ schedule and they begin district play with a road trip to West Potomac on Dec. 16.
If Lake Braddock’s defense-to-offense formula works and Morra can fill up the score sheet until a younger cast of stars feels comfortable enough to contribute, Lake Braddock could be expecting another trip deep into the region tournament.
“We’re hoping to get down the court quick for transition buckets,” Morra said. “We’ve been training this season for the push at the end of the game that will keep up separated from the other teams.”