Jarec Brown is the vocal one on the George Wythe basketball team. On the court, he tells his teammates where to go. Off the court, he’s always in communication with them, texting and calling. When Darrell Purdie’s grandfather passed away, Brown was there to offer support.
“That’s why I love him,” Purdie said.
On Monday night against No. 5 L.C. Bird, Brown scored 35 points, and No. 4 Wythe hit the accelerator in the fourth quarter, winning 82-72.
Wythe scored 14 straight points to open the fourth quarter. Its matchup zone defense was running at maximum efficiency. The Bulldogs (14-1) forced 15 turnovers, including four in the final quarter, and raced down the court, scoring on fast breaks.
What was once a 3-point deficit turned into a 13-point lead.
Bird couldn’t keep up. Its shots weren’t falling, and all the rebounds were going in Wythe’s favor. The Bulldogs needed less than two minutes to score 14 points and change the game’s direction.
Bird (9-2) cut the lead to 6, but got no closer.
“We had a lot of energy,” said Purdie, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.
L.C. Bird had a size advantage, with 6-foot-7 Tyrek Williams, 6-8 Chris Ford and 6-5 Mac Burgette. So Wythe coach Willard Coker figured he needed to speed up the game to neutralize Bird’s size. In the fourth quarter, it worked. Wythe dominated on the boards, outrebounding Bird 41-22.
Kevin Hubbard scored 12 for Wythe, and Ikechi Chantilou added 10.
The matchup zone is a little different. Not many high school teams run it, although it’s been Coker’s calling card for some time. He was an assistant at Virginia Union, where Dave Robbins installed it nearly 40 years ago.
“It’s effective to this day,” Purdie said.
Brown loves playing defense. It’s one reason he transferred to George Wythe from Life Christian last year as a junior. He took awhile to learn it, but now he takes great pride in it.
“Defense wins games, so that’s my motto,” said Brown.
Brown displayed an ability to force turnovers and drive to the basket Monday. Coker hopes he’ll end up at a prep school next year, giving him time to develop his perimeter skills. If the 6-4 senior can do that, he’ll become a well-rounded, dangerous player, the coach said.
There are parallels between Wythe’s program and Bird’s. Bird, too, is committed to a particular defensive philosophy — man to man — and uses its defense to cause turnovers and score quickly. Bird made its way to the free throw line repeatedly early in the game.
The Skyhawks led 27-16 early in the second quarter, making 14 of 16 free throws before Wythe had attempted its first. Corbin Slayton led Bird with 22 points. Burgett and Jamon Battle scored 13 each.
L.C. BIRD (9-2) — Tyrek Williams 8, Corbin Slayton 22, Jamon Battle 13, MacKinley Burgett 13, Rahim Jenkins 11, Tyler Henderson 5, Mykael Anderson 0, Que Elliott 0, Chris Ford 0. Totals: 23 19-26 72.
GEORGE WYTHE (14-1) — Darrell Purdie 22, Ikechi Chantilou 10, Eugene Williams 3, Jarec Brown 35, Kevin Hubbard 12, Kavon Gallishaw 0, James Jackson 0, Maurice Laster 0, Zamare Johnston 0. Totals: 34 12-17 82.
L.C. Bird 19 20 16 17 — 72
George Wythe 16 17 21 28 — 82
3-point goals: — LCB: Corbin Slayton 4, MacKinley Burgett 2, Rahim Jenkins 1 GW: Darrell Purdie 1, Eugene Williams 1.