With the season coming to a close, Bullis boys basketball is looking to make an impact in this years postseason. The reigning champions in the IAC, Bullis has had a pretty good season so far. Closing out the season at 18-7, and 7-3 in division, Bullis enters the IAC tournament as the second seed. Above them, Georgetown Prep,18-5, who were the the runner ups in last year’s IAC tournament.
Prep enters the tournament as the #1 overall seed. Their only two losses? Bullis and St. Albans. Prep and Bullis split the season series at one and one, only adding fuel to the nascent rivalry between both schools. Bullis handed Prep their first IAC loss at home after the Hoyas dominated the Dogs a few weeks prior.
“When we were beat at Prep, we were not a good basketball team at that point in time. I think we’re a much better team now that we’re healthy” says Bullis head coach, Bruce Kelley. “So to answer the question; yes we can win. But we have to win Friday.”
Coach Kelley brings up a good point. While all the chatter seems to be around Prep and Bullis, the Dogs’ opponent in the first round is a school they lost to just last week. Similar to Georgetown Prep, the Dogs split the series 1-1 with Episcopal. The Dogs managed to beat Episcopal at home in a statement victory, only to lose a few weeks later on the road in an overtime defeat.
“We have good players, we have senior guards, I feel like we’re able to play anyone in our league. We can win.” Coach Kelley stated confidently when asked about the team’s mentality going into the tournament.
When asked about their overtime loss to Episcopal, he had this to say: “We lost to Episcopal in a hurtful game because we had it won many times over”
Losing games they shouldn’t have seems to be a common theme for the Bulldogs this year. The team’s ability to win depends largely on the performance of senior guards Vado Morse and Lincoln Yeutter. Some have criticized Coach Kelley for relying too heavily on the guard tandem, arguing that the team would be better off sharing the load. Despite the criticism, Coach Kelley seems to be sticking to the offense he’s run all year, explaining that the key to winning is the seniors. “Lincoln and Vado are really good players. That’s who we’re playing through.”
With a roster full of Sophomores and Juniors, this is a bold strategy. Most coaches would focus on integrating the young guys with the hopes that the playtime and experience will aid the team in years to come. But Coach Kelley seems focussed on the present, choosing to continue his reliance on the senior players. “Now we have no idea which of those young guys are gonna step up. Few of them have done it consistently, but Kollins been there, Nendah’s been there, Cj’s been there. It takes time, man. We’ll see.”
The players, while largely agreeing with their coach, have their own mindsets heading into this year’s tournament. Bullis guard Jesiah Matthews (‘19) spoke about his fears heading into the game Friday. “My fears are underestimating teams that we play. I feel like we have a tendency of playing down to competition. In the first round/semifinals I think we should to be ready to play, and make sure we don’t underestimate them team we play.” Bullis needs to bring their A-game if they want to reach the finals this year. When asked about Georgetown Prep he had a lot of praise for the team, citing them as their biggest threat in this tournament.
“They’re a really talented team, I think they’re expected to win the championship, but you know, we often come out and rally. I think they’re our biggest threat, but if we are able to stop their point guard we have a chance to beat them” Matthews (‘19) said.
Stopping Jared Bynum is indeed important to slowing down Georgetown Prep. The senior point guard is their leading scorer and the motor of their offense. But again, before they can focus on Prep, they need to beat Episcopal.
“We’re really resilient, when I say that I mean, no matter what the circumstances, when we’re the underdogs we show out and play really well… I think that’s our best quality. We have a lot of shooters and a lot of talent, so if one guy isn’t doing so well another guy can step up and give the team what we need,” said an optimistic Matthews(‘19), expressing the faith he has in his team.
Bullis is one of the best teams entering the tournament; whether or not they win hitches on their ability to execute. Whatever the outcome, the Dogs can celebrate a successful season before moving in to next year, but the ultimate goal is to hang another banner on the wall and repeat as IAC champions.