They've caught basketball fever at Brentwood School, where Monday night, instead of dining on $9 cheeseburgers from the gourmet truck in the parking lot, students and fans packed the gymnasium and helped inspire an 81-71 victory over Pacific Hills in a battle for first place in the Alpha League.
Tra Holder scored 27 points, Leland King had 23 and Ountae Campbell turned in some stellar defense to lead Brentwood (20-2, 7-1), which is the only team left in the league with one loss. Pacific Hills dropped to 17-4, and 7-2.
What a coaching job turned in by second-year Coach Ryan Bailey. He was so fired up before the game he said, "I wish I could play." He hasn't played since he was a guard at UCLA in 2001, but his intensity level was matched by his players, as Brentwood scored the game's first 13 points.
Pacific Hills trailed by 20 points with just over a minute left in the third quarter before finally making a rally. Over the next five minutes, the Bruins outscored Brentwood, 14-2. But that's when sophomore Maxwell Kupchak made a three-pointer to briefly halt the rally. Then Pacific Hills began another comeback, closing to 68-64 with 3 minutes 31 seconds left. The Eagles responded with clutch free throws from Holder and withstood the challenge.
Jahmel Taylor scored 25 points, Marcus Jackson had 20 and junior Namon Wright, who received a scholarship offer from Arizona on Monday, finished with 19 points for Pacific Hills.
What a change in culture Bailey has brought to the basketball program. Brentwood is known for its academics and has so many sons and daughters of Hollywood celebrities and business elite that no one is allowed to mention their names. But the basketball team's success has lighted a fire on campus.
"It's really a good feeling," said King, a 6-foot-6 senior headed to Brown. "We haven't been in first place in I don't know how long. We've come such a long way since my freshman year. I'm so happy. Coach Bailey has helped us out so much. He always holds us accountable. That's why we do so well."
On Saturday, without Holder (ankle injury) and King (taking the SAT), Brentwood was able to pull out a one-point win over Rolling Hills Prep in the Fairfax State Preview Classic. Holder and King returned with a vengeance, giving the Eagles an immediate lift in the first quarter, and never let up.
Brentwood still faces the challenge of having to beat an improving Windward team in its final regular-season game, but it's clear that the Eagles have a program on the rise, and their fans are thrilled.