Wright Excels, Brentwood Advances

BRISTOL, Tenn.--Brandan Wright carried his team as the Brentwood Academy Eagles downed the Science Hill Hilltoppers 57-40 and advanced to the finals of the Arby's Classic.

It was clear what Brentwood Academy's strategy was on offense from the onset--get Brandan Wright the ball. He led all scorers with 28 points and was the statistical leader in rebounds with 10.

He carried the team in the first half, scoring 18 of the team's 29 points and assisting on four more. He accounted for all 13 of the team's first-quarter points scoring 11 and dishing out one assist.

First, he scored on a fade-away along the right baseline, then an "and-one" lay-up in transition followed by a free throw. Next, he scooted into the lane to drop a lefty hook, followed shortly thereafter by a dunk in transition, and then trickled in a jump shot falling across the lane to his right. He concluded the quarter by putting the ball on the floor and hitting another running pull-up jumper and finding an open teammate out of a double team for a lay-up.

"When he gets down low, there is no way to stop him from getting the ball," said Ken Cutlip, head coach of Science Hill. "He is going to get it, and you are going to be at the mercy of whether he just makes or misses his shots. You just hope to try to keep him away from the basket, but you can not stop him from getting it."

"We felt like tonight that we definitely had an advantage inside, even though they have good size," said B.A. head coach, George Pitts. "We didn't feel like they could guard Brandan. Every game we have some keys, and that was one of our keys tonight. The thing about Brandan is if they double him he does such a good job of hitting the open man… He is so unselfish that if he doesn't need to be [assertive] he is fine with the other guys [scoring]. Tonight we needed him, and thank goodness [we have him.]"

Meanwhile, Science Hill was handling the full-court press better than either of B.A.'s first two opponents and was able to hang with the Eagles by getting open shots.

"They bring a lot of pressure up front, and we were able to spread the floor and bring several people up the floor," said Cutlip. "We tried to use five players to beat their four. They press with four players and keep Brandan back, so we threw over the top of the press and tried to get ahead of them so they couldn't get us in the traps."

The trend continued into the second quarter--Wright scored on a lay-up and free throw, a steal and a dunk, and then a pair of free throws along with an assist to help the Eagles build a 27-16 lead mid-way through the period.

"I knew this was a big game," said Wright. "The first two games we really overmatched both teams. Going out for Coach Pitts we wanted to get a win for him, going against his former team."

Then it happened. Wright went to the bench, and the Hilltoppers went on a run. Bang, bang, bang, and Science Hill was right back in the game. Then he returned but couldn't stop the onslaught as S.H. continued to hit from the perimeter against the press and managed to pull even at the half, 29-29.

After the intermission, Pitts changed his defensive strategy and it altered the complexion of the game. Instead of a full-court press, Brentwood employed a half-court man-to-man defense. Science Hill took an early 31-29 lead, but it would be their last points of the quarter.

Wright struggled from the field on offense, hitting only two of seven shots, but he found other ways to contribute with five rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and two altered shots.

"In the press we were gambling a little bit, giving them wide open shots," said Wright. "They could hit [from the perimeter]. Against the half-court man-to-man, it's not easy to get fast breaks and open looks. We clamped down, played tough, and got in the passing lanes… My goal was to go out there, control the defensive boards, prevent any back cuts, and be tough."

"On defense [Wright] just makes it impossible for you to get to the rim," said Cutlip. "you can do what you want to try to, but he's so long and with the defense that they run, he covers a lot of space. He's just a great basketball player."

Science Hill never got back into an offensive rhythm, and Brentwood increased the lead in the fourth quarter for the final score of 57-40.

Brandan Wright and Brentwood Academy will take on 6-9 Tennessee signee Wayne Chism and the Bolivar Central High School Tigers Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. for the Arby's Classic Championship.

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