Lafayette High wasn’t expected to beat two-time defending Group AA Division 3 state champion Brunswick County to open the boys basketball season and it didn’t. Brunswick, which has reached six consecutive state tournament finals, beat the Rams 67-41 on Monday.
What wasn’t expected was that the Rams (0-1) would be so competitive well into the third quarter. Following hard-working guard Bryce Losty’s steal and assist on a John Fitchett basket, the Rams led 24-22 with less than four minutes left in first half.
To that point, the Rams’ hustle, defense, rebounding and the shooting of John Fitchett (21 points) had kept them even or ahead virtually the entire time. But we are talking about Brunswick, which features a pair of brothers – Brandan Stith (East Carolina) and BJ Stith (Virginia) – who are headed to Division I on basketball scholarships.
And we’re talking muscular forward Xavier Burke, who will play football on scholarship at Virginia Tech, and we’re talking Stephen Vassor, who will play basketball on some level for free. We’re also talking length here: something like 6-5 for Vassor and BJ and 6-7 for Brandan (didn’t get the exact heights) with Burke something like 6-3.
And finally, we’re talking about great trapping pressure. The Bulldogs (1-0) specialize in it, and many of the eight dunks – yes, eight, five for Brandan and three for BJ – they got were the result of turnovers.
It’s going to take an amazingly talented team to stop the Bulldogs from three-peating in the state tourney at VCU in March. Lafayette is not that, but the Rams are a hard-working, tough bunch.
Fitchett is a sure first team All-Bay Rivers District selection if he stays healthy, 6-foot-4-ish with a great outside shot. The rest of the bunch defends well, rebounded with enthusiasm and, at times, effectively. For the Rams to contend with Grafton for the district title, however, some scoring options beyond Fitchett will have to develop.
Here’s new coach Patrick Brown’s take on the game.
“This game shows what we can do when we play with a lot of energy and intensity. I thought we held our own on the boards – we weren’t just jumping, we were truly boxing out.
“We’re only seven deep, so I told (the Rams) I should’ve had the foresight to condition them a little better. I told them this is probably the best team they’ll see all year and the final score doesn’t indicate what kind of game this was for two-and-a-half quarters.
“I’m proud of them.”
BRUNSWICK COUNTY 67, LAFAYETTE 41
Brunswick (1-0): Williams 2, Israel Stith 8, Hardy 4, BJ Stith 19, Brandan Stith 24, Vassor 7, Crutchfield 2, Burke 1. 25 13-31 67.
Lafayette (0-1): Hayes 4, Fitchett 21, Ashby 1, Ashlock 6, Rivera 4, Losty 3, G. Banks 2. 12 13-20 41.
BRUNSWICK 15 19 19 14 – 67
LAFAYETTE 15 13 8 5 – 41
3-point goals – Brunswick 4 (I. Stith 2, BJ Stith 2), Lafayette 4 (Fitchett 3, Losty 1). JV game – Brunswick won.
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