By Owen Gotimer
Ashburn (Dec. 21, 2014) – For the first time in Loudoun County’s history, a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference basketball team made its way inside Loudoun’s boundaries to play a public school in LCPS, according to Stone Bridge High School (5-2) assistant coach Michael Prince. On Dec. 20, Bishop Ireton High School (2-7) arrived at Stone Bridge’s front doors to compete in a non-conference boys varsity basketball match up as the Bulldogs toppled the Cardinals, 67-35.
“We’re trying to build a program. To get a WCAC school in here and obviously win by the margin we did shows a lot of the energy and effort these kids put in since day one. They work and fight every day to get better,” Stone Bridge head coach Corey Stitzel said.
The WCAC is known for its incredible basketball programs including DeMatha Catholic, Archbishop Carroll and Gonzaga College and has seen a laundry list of basketball success stories graduate from its conference:
- Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey
- Olympic gold medalist Kenny Carr
- Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry
- Philadelphia 76ers forward Jerami Grant
- Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan
- Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo
- Former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, Jr.
- Current Georgetown head coach John Thompson III
Yet the Bulldogs made easy work of the power conference team, paving their way to the easy victory with the help of junior forward Nick Barnes who scored 24 points and collected 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“I thought he was terrific. He’s one of the fastest rising junior prospects in the state of Virginia from a recruiting perspective. I thought he matched their physicality. He’s new to playing at a high level, but he matched Ireton’s physicality,” Stitzel said. “He finished around the rim, he hit a couple jumpers and he was active. Defensively, he was terrific: he showed up and got a lot of weak side rebounds. He played like a Division I prospect is supposed to play in a game like this.”
Barnes noted his effort on the defensive end is what allowed for the team chemistry on the offensive side of the court.
“Basically, I had to make sure I defended really well and be there for the rotations,” the 6-foot-7 Barnes said. “On the offensive side, I just made sure I was in the right spot and just be a team player the whole time.”
Stone Bridge forced nine first half turnovers taking a 25-16 lead into the locker room at the half.
Senior guards Jason Jolly and Julian Albizo and junior guard John Bohanon all had three steals on the game. Jolly added 8 points and 6 assists while Albizo contributed 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
“Obviously we thought they’d be big and physical like most teams from the WCAC are. We set the tempo defensively, and I thought we rebounded. If you defend and rebound, no matter who you play, you’re going to give yourself a chance especially when you play at home. We forced a WCAC school to  turnovers. Then we made them pay in the transition,” Stitzel said.
In front of a full house at the Dog Pound, the Bulldogs – who were 11-12 last season and have not advanced to a region game since their conference change in 2005 – improved to 5-2 on their young season after dropping their first two games to South Lakes and Westfield.
“We hyped ourselves up from the beginning this year,” Barnes said. “As people starting showing up to our games and started seeing what we could do, more and more people started coming out to support us.”
Stitzel – who took over as the Stone Bridge head coach this season after former head coach Ben West stepped down in March citing family and health reasons – might just be the Bulldogs biggest supporter.
“They’re an unbelievable group of kids,” Stitzel said. “You’re going to miss shots, you’re going to turn the ball over, but character never goes away. I’ll go to war every night with these kids when it comes to their character.”
Stone Bridge Bulldogs Stats
Nick Barnes 24 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 2-for-4 free throws
Jason Jolly 8 points, 1 rebound, 3 steals, 1 blocked shot, 6 assists, 2-for-3 free throws
Julian Albizo 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1-for-1 free throw
John Bohanon 6 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists
Luke Rody 6 points
Colin Jachimowski 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 blocked shot
Michael O’Day 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2-for-2 free throws
Grant Howard 3 points
Luke Vandermeulen 2 points, 1 rebound
Mitchell Liston 2 points, 2-for-2 free throws
Nate Skemp 1 rebound, 1 steal
Jacob Lough 2 assists
67 points, 24 rebounds, 6 turnovers, 13 steals, 2 blocked shots, 12 assists, 9-for-12 free throws
Bishop Ireton Cardinals Stats
Kyle Bethea 8 points, 2-for-2 free throws
Quintin Gilchrest 7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1-for-2 free throws
Jeremiah Brooks 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 2-for-3 free throws
Chandler Hill 4 points, 3 rebounds
Jaime Pasha 3 points, 3 rebounds
Michael Everett 3 points, 2 rebounds, 0-for-2 free throws
Joseph Hamer 3 points
Darius Hines 2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist
Andrew Dinh 1 point, 1 steal, 1 assist, 1-for-2 free throws
Jeremy Guillaud 4 rebounds
Joshua Cordoba 1 steal
35 points, 23 rebounds, 21 turnovers, 3 steals, 3 assists, 5-for-11 free throws
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently in his senior year at Syracuse University. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.