Bishop England’s biggest issue is actually a luxury.
The Bishops are as deep this season as they’ve been in years. Promising youth of years passed has by now matured into dependable contributors. The toughest challenge for head coach Bryan Grevey so far this season has been deciding how to spread minutes throughout a roster lined with nearly two lineups of capable starters.
“We have probably nine or 10 players that I could comfortably start,” Grevey said after Bishop England’s 48-40 win over rival Wando on Saturday pushed the Bishops to an unblemished 5-0 start.
The Bishops returned five of their six top scorers from last season and six of their seven leading rebounders. Six Bishops are averaging at least seven points per game right now and 12 are grabbing at least two rebounds.
“Any night, a guy coming off of the bench can score 10-15 points,” Grevey added. “Teams are going to have to pick their poison with us.”
The Bishops might be strongest in the backcourt. Senior 6-foot-4 guard Aidan McCool is scoring 12.6 points and grabbing five rebounds per night. Senior point guard Patrick Antonelli is averaging 12.4 points with four steals. Antonelli is the son of a former three-year starter at N.C. State and operates as such with a heightened acumen on the floor. McCool is a former all-region selection who’s shown flashes of offensive brilliance in the past. Junior wing Ty Schaafsma is currently sidelined with an ankle injury but will add another explosive scoring threat when he returns.
Antonelli scored nine points with five steals against Wando. McCool added five points and pulled away six steals. The Bishops forced 20 steals as a team to counter the 18 turnovers they committed.
“It was very a defensive game from the get-go,” Grevey explained. “Every possession seemed to be a long possession. Two rivals going at it, you can throw the records out of the window.”
Bishop England assigned its best on-ball defender Thomas Michel to Warriors leading scorer Sam Laydon. Michel finished with six rebounds and two steals. Laydon put together 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from three. He was only player to score in double figures for the Warriors, who shot 33 percent as a team. Bishop England wasn’t much better at 38 percent shooting but did connect on 43 percent from inside the three-point arc.
Bishop England led 14-12 after the first quarter, then locked down defensively to allow just 11 points through the second and third quarters to take a 10-point cushion into the fourth.
“A typical Wando-BE game,” Grevey said. “You’re never going to completely shut down a great scorer like (Laydon). But I think we took them out of their comfort zone a little bit.
“We expected a war. And it was.”
Wando outrebounded Bishop England 27-21 but much of the credit for the Bishops’ win, and fast start this season, can be attributed to its frontcourt. Daniel Brooks is averaging nine points and five boards per game. He exploded for 18 points and nine rebounds against St. Joseph’s earlier this season. Wando limited Brooks to four points and three steals. But that opened things up for Cam Costa, who finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three steals beside him. Costa and Brooks have often controlled the boards when played together this season. The Bishops were passive in the post at times last year but Brooks and Costa have provided a more aggressive presence down low this season.
Bishops senior Jack Rider might be the wild card. Rider, at 6-foot-1, has the build of a guard but can play and defend anywhere from the point to power forward position. He can also handle the ball and shoot the three. He had 13 points against Wando with three assists. The Bishops assisted on 11 of 15 made field goals by swinging the ball throughout the floor.
“Offensively, we don’t have too many weaknesses,” Grevey said. “We can spread the ball around confidently. Teams can’t focus on any one player against us.”
Bishop England’s win over Wando snapped a six-game slide against its neighboring rival. The Bishops will face maybe its toughest test of the season so far in a road game at Charleston Charter on Dec. 20 before jumping into the Orangeburg-Wilkinson holiday tournament the following week. Charleston Charter is listed seventh in the Class A state rankings, led by top-five senior Wendall Seabrook.
Grevey keeps all of it in perspective though, assuring that a 5-0 start means very little if it doesn’t equate to success into the new year.
“We’re probably where we hoped to be at this point,” Grevey said. “We’re off to a good start. But the goal is to win the region so everything we’re doing through this first half of the season will hopefully prepare us for that.”