BATAVIA – The scorers’ table became a revolving door for the guards on the Batavia boys basketball team Friday night.
In order to stay in the game, Bulldogs guards would switch off guarding Santa Clara signee Jared Brownridge for a few possessions at a time to try and limit the standout’s open looks at the basket.
The strategy worked for the most part as Brownridge finished with a quiet 18 points. Trouble for Batavia was Brownridge earned his most important points of the night when Waubonsie Valley need them most in a 52-43, UEC crossover win for the Warriors.
“Towards the end I knew I had to take the ball to the basket more because I knew if I was aggressive, they would foul me,” Brownridge said. “At the end of the game, it was pump fake, go into him, make sure I got to the free throw line. I’m used to other teams playing me tough, I just have to get the ball and be stronger.”
Brownridge came up big after Batavia (2-4) chipped away at was at one point a 13-point first half lead for Waubonsie Valley (5-2).
Following a Mike Rueffer 3-point play that tied the score at 41, Brownridge was able to maneuver his body on a tough shot, draw contact and convert a 3-point play of his own.
The next time down the floor, Brownridge found a crease on the left side and knocked down what turned out to be the game-winning shot as the Warriors pulled ahead, 46-41.
“He’s one of the area’s best players, and we knew that coming in,” Rueffer said. “I was definitely up to the task. I was definitely up to it. It was a team effort. It was the other guys putting ball pressure on the other guys making it hard to get him [Brownridge] the ball.”
Rueffer was the Bulldogs guard who followed Brownridge around the floor the most, fighting through multiple screens on most possessions as Brownridge fought to get open.
Batavia’s effort on defense – especially Rueffer on Brownridge – allowed the Bulldogs to get back into the game. Rueffer canned back-to-back 3s midway through the third quarter that pulled Batavia within one, 30-29. Reserve Mike Carlson’s lay-in two minutes later provided the Bulldogs with their first lead, 34-32.
But, Brownridge and fellow standout Bryan Jefferson came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of the Warriors’ 15 points.
“Early on in the fourth, we really needed some stops but we let up the Brownridge three-point play and a three and it kind of took some momentum away there,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “I know we didn’t shoot how we wanted in the fourth. Our problem is the last three games have followed the same path – we’ve been down early, we battled back and we take a lead and then we’re not able to hold it in the fourth quarter.”
Batavia twice had opportunities to make it a one-possession game, but Micah Coffey and Zach Strittmatter each missed one-and-one opportunities.
Jefferson iced the game at the line in the last minute, going 4 of 6 as part of a 22-point, 15-rebound effort.
“I think we are a team knocking on the door of doing some great things. We’ve gotta start starting better than we have,” Nazos said. “That needs to be taken care of first. We’ve got a really good character team. I think we’re knocking on the door but we need to make it happen.”
Rueffer, who led the Bulldogs with 14 points, limited Brownridge to five field goals and only seven first-half points. The senior guard agreed with Nazos that the Bulldogs need better starts to games.
“It’s just something we need to get out of. The first four minutes they just came out and beasted us,” Rueffer said. “We definitely need to pick that up. Once we do that I think it will turn around and we will be the team pushing them in the first four minutes.”