Sunday’s Independent School League AA Division title game between the Bullis School and Georgetown Visitation girls basketball teams was like a chess match between two of the area’s best coaches — first-year Bulldogs coach Rod Hairston and long-time Cubs coach Mike McCarthy — with each entering the Sidwell Friends School (D.C.) with a well-crafted strategy.
In the end, it was Hairston celebrating in the form of a convincing 60-39 victory, largely behind the offensive play of Lynee Belton (21 points, 17 rebounds) and Brittany Jackson (17 points, 7 rebounds) and an all-around stingy defensive effort that limited Georgetown to its third lowest point total of the season.
Belton, despite being constantly double-teamed through Georgetown’s packed in 2-3 zone, constantly worked her way open in the post or ripped down one offensive rebound after the other for layups or fouls. Hairston’s counter to the 2-3 zone was to swing the ball into the corner, forcing one of the Cubs to come out, leaving Belton one-on-one with the center defender or quick skip passes that allowed Belton and Kirby Porter to re-establish position in the paint for close-range shots.
“I just had to avoid them boxing out and just be bigger and not let their physicality around me to get to me,” Belton said. “I think rebounding was the key thing because rebounding offensively got us more points and more opportunities and defensive rebounding gave them less second chances. All the goals we set at the beginning [of the season], we got.”
Belton’s rugged inside play opened up the outside for her teammates, including Jackson who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, including a pair in the first half to push the Bulldogs out to leads of 17-9 after one quarter of play and 33-19 at the half.
“Offensively, we just tried to pound it inside because we’re bigger,” said Jackson, who also scored a few baskets off steals she created in her team’s aggressive man-to-man halfcourt defense. “We got it to our post players and they had to finish and when they kicked it out, we had to knock them down. That was basically the game plan and it was effective for us.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs smothered Georgetown’s bevy of talented jump shooters, forcing them to put the ball on the floor and go to the basket and then ripping down the rebound on nearly every miss. Bullis more than doubled Georgetown’s rebounding total and limited the Cubs, who averaged about 56 points per game, to 10 or fewer points in all four quarters.
“I thought person-to-person we had an advantage in athleticism,” Hairston said. “My thing was to just not give them any open looks because [Taylor] Delgado is awesome. My goal was just to keep them in front of us and not give them any free looks.”
The Bulldogs used a 13-5 run to end the first quarter — Jackson had five points and Belton contributed four during the run — to take control of the game and actually led by as many as 15 points early in the second quarter before settling for the 14-point halftime advantage. Not bad considering Belton and Porter exited early because of foul trouble.
The lead was 13 after three quarters and Jackson essentially put the game away with her third 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left in the game to put Bullis ahead 49-31. Belton scored seven straight points late in the quarter to increase the lead to as much as 24 points.
“It means a lot,” Jackson said. “I’m a senior and it’s my last game. I’m glad we went out with a bang, definitely.”
Montgomery County came up a win short of a championship sweep, as the Connelly School of the Holy Child dropped a 57-44 decision to National Cathedral School in the ISL A Division title game at Sidwell Friends earlier Sunday. Three of the Tigers’ (18-6) six losses this season were to National Cathedral.
“We were short on our shots; we just weren’t hitting anything,” Holy Child coach Jamie Ready said. “They got up by 18 at one time with four minutes left and I just told my team, ‘Keep working hard. Let’s not let this get out of control,’ and we cut it down. I was proud of the way we continued to work hard.
“We had a great season. We graduate three seniors, but we’ve got a lot coming back next year.”
Bullis 60, Georgetown Visitation 39
Bullis 17 16 9 18 — 60
Georgetown Visitation 9 10 10 10 — 30
Bullis (21-5): Lynee Belton 21, Brittany Jackson 17, Raven James 7, Kirby Porter 5, Briana Davis 4, Ashley DeLeonibus 2, Dazia Hall 2.
Georgetown Visitation (21-8): Taylor Delgado 12, Ana Hagerup 9, Alexis Gray 8, Alexis Bryant 6, Maddy Reed 4.