He's a 6-foot-6, 230-pound man among boys on the basketball court, with the haircut of a Marine and the body of a bull. Though not well known, he entered play yesterday leading the metro area in both points and rebounds, each by a staggering margin.
For the Park Bruins last night, it seemed the only way to stop host Glenelg Country School was to stop center Bernie Dennison.
Somewhere in the midst of their 78-60 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference win, however, the Bruins discovered something that made the task seem easy -- he can't beat you if he doesn't have the ball.
After getting burned for 18 points and 13 rebounds from the big man in the first half, and trailing by nine early in the third quarter, Park found success by pressuring the Dragons' guards.
Coach Josh Wolf's team forced 16 turnovers in the second half, outscoring the Dragons, 24-2, in one third-quarter stretch.
"We knew they couldn't dribble, but we didn't pick up on it in the first half," said Wolf, whose team won its 12th straight game. "After halftime, we put a little pressure on them and they fell apart."
Said Park guard Cameron Stanley: "We noticed their guards were having trouble in the first half, so we tried to exploit that."
Led by the backcourt trio of Thibault Manekin (23 points), Stanley (19) and Keith Ganzenmuller (10), the Bruins (13-2 overall, 7-0 in the league) time and again turned steals into fast-break layups. Of Park's 22 second-half baskets, 19 came on layups, the other three on three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Dennison barely was touching the ball. The senior, who entered this week averaging 28.1 points and 19.6 rebounds, finished with 28 and 22, respectively, but got just seven shots after halftime -- most of them after his team was already out of it.
"That's why we're losing," said Glenelg Country first-year coach John Aquila, "turnovers and guards who can't handle the ball. When we get it to Bernie, we score. If we had guards who could beat pressure, he'd be scoring every time down the court."
The Dragons (8-9, 3-5) controlled play in the first half by forcing Park into its half-court game. Led by Bernie Dennison, Pat Dennison (11 points) and Nick Woodford (seven), Glenelg Country put together a 12-0 run late in the second quarter to turn a 24-18 deficit into a 30-24 lead at the break.
When the Bruins began applying full-court pressure, however, they changed the entire complexion of the game.
Said Aquila: "When we made it a half-court game, we outplayed them. When they made it a track meet, they blew by us."
Wolf said yesterday's game marked the sixth time this season the Bruins have rallied from a halftime deficit to win.
"These guys know they're going to win, no matter how far they're behind," he said. "Once they get going, the momentum is unstoppable."