For 5'7" and an estimated 130 pounds in combat boots, Bryce Jones was...in a word, huge.
The lithe and diminutive point guard was a huge problem for Variety Boys & Girls Club and a huge lift for Boys & Girls High School. In a Queens Nike Swoosh championship game that was close and action-packed from the opening tip through the final two minutes of play, Jones personified the defending champion Kangaroos' modus operandi this summer.
"We take pride in our youth," said Boys & Girls Coach Elmer Anderson after his unit defended their title with a 58-49 win at Utopia Park on Saturday. "These guys all know they have the responsibility of stepping up when a teammate is being defended, and Bryce and [rising junior guard] Wesley [Myers] did a great job with that today."
The teammate being defended was none other than rising senior workhorse and leader, Leroy "Truck" Fludd. Although he finished in double figures with 11 points, Variety's stingy help defense was effective in keeping "Truck" stuck in neutral for much of the game. The momentum of the close match was tipped Variety's way early on, courtesy of the aforementioned defensive fight in the first half and the relentless-to-the-rack attack of guards Terrell Williams (8 points) and James Coleman (a team high 14 points).
Boys & Girls did have their moments though, and most of them were courtesy of Jones' hot hand. From both behind the arc and ten feet out, Jones couldn't miss (he shot a perfect 7-7 through three quarters), while Myers chipped in with buckets, making the duo the lone Kangaroos to score in the second quarter.
"My teammates stepped up big on offense," said Fludd, who was clamped down by Variety's defense for four first half points. "They scored the ball when I wasn't playing that well. They stepped up on defense too."
The said defense was the difference maker for Boys & Girls - it pulled them out of a 34-31 halftime deficit and sparked an 11-0 third quarter run that Variety never fully recovered from.
"Our defense predicates our offense," Coach Anderson said. "We didn't want to press too much, so we stayed in that zone and baited them into shooting jumpers."
The lone Variety member to score in the third quarter was rising junior guard, Isaiah Cosbert (10 points), who kept his squad alive with some hot jump shooting. But it wasn't enough. After blowing a fast break dunk, Myers (13 points) nailed a deep trey to put Boys & Girls up, 40-34, and Fludd scored in time to stop the Cosbert charge that cut Variety's deficit to three.
Closing out in the final period came down to free throws, and Fludd and Jones combined to shoot 8-9 (Boys & Girls shot 10-16 in the second half) to inch the game away. Conversely, Variety struggled from the stripe, shooting 2-8 in the second half. Coach Anderson attributes Boys & Girls' ability to close out to experience.
"[Although these guys are young], they've all experienced winning before," the coach said. "And they know what it takes to do it."
Bryce Jones scored a game high 24 points, including a perfect 5-5 showing at the free throw line.