Owen has sights set on states

NOKESVILLE — Brian Owen has seen a lot at Brentsville. He’s seen the Tigers rely upon one scorer — Chris Jenkins, during Owen’s sophomore year two seasons ago — and spread the offensive wealth, like last season.

He’s seen the Tigers make the postseason, but never achieve enough success to feel satisfied. In Jenkins’ final season at Brentsville, the Tigers — despite a high seed — were knocked off early in the Bull Run District tournament. Last year, after Brentsville wound its way through districts and into regionals, the Tigers surrendered a 14-point lead to Riverheads in the first round of the Region B tournament.

Now, ahead of him, Owen sees his last chance to make a big splash in the postseason. As a senior, this is his last go-around, and Owen has prepared well. He spent time in the gym working on his game, he spent time lifting weights to add some bulk to his 6-foot-3 frame, all in an effort to make the next logical leap.

“I hope this year we can go on to states,” Owen said, who is one of four returning starters.

“You can’t leave him alone. And if you guard him, he’ll go by you,” Tigers coach Doug Poppe said. “He’s developed his entire game. He put on 15 pounds of muscle, and that’s going to help, and he’s starting to become a leader. Those are three deadly combinations.”

Over the past few years, Owen’s game consisted of mostly outside shots. Last year, he finished the season as Brentsville’s leading scorer, with 10.8 points per game in 23 contests during the Tigers’ 15-9 campaign. In his sophomore year, he was one of the options for the slashing Jenkins. Jenkins was quick enough to get past the perimeter defense, but if his plans went awry in the lane, Owen was one of the players who would likely be hovering around the 3-point line.

But this offseason, Owen worked the parts of his game that needed improvement. He worked on nailing an open jumper when he has it, and tried to improve his defense as well.

All the work was done to help the team’s overall chances of making the state tournament.

“Every practice, every time we let up a little bit, when we’re playing that could be one turnover or a missed free throw,” Owen explained. “It all adds up.”

The commitment extends beyond just Owen, though. In the offseason, when the gym was open, Owen and fellow senior Louis Spriggs joined sophomore Jake Lavely for workouts. And the workouts weren’t just sporadic.

“Owen, Lavely and Spriggs were in here every day,” Poppe said. “Not just in once or twice a week, but every day.”

This year, the Tigers feature eight seniors. Two of those seniors played on the football team, which lost in the first round of the Region B playoffs to Central-Lunenburg.

One of those players is Sam Huff, the Tigers’ quarterback.

He helps complete an experienced backcourt with Owen, Spriggs, Chris Carrico and Ramsey Boyd all of whom saw varying levels of playing time last season.

Brentsville also has some experienced big players, a strength that wasn’t there in the past few seasons. The 6-5 Lavely was a regular on the varsity team as a freshman last season, while 6-6 junior Corey Bailey comes up from the junior varsity team. Swingman Colin McCarron, at 6-3 and 230 pounds, provides some bulk.

That’s good news for Poppe. The 6-7 coach was a center during his playing days.

But Owen said the guards also get help from Poppe.

“All the time, we ask him what to do, and he tells us about the little things,” Owen said.

While everything is pointing to a successful season for Owen and the Tigers, it’s up to them to take the next, final step in the postseason.

“We took good steps last year, making it to regionals,” Poppe said. “We’ve taken a step every year, and now we’ve got to take the final step.”

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