Brianna Lee goes up for a layup in a game against University Academy earlier this year. (Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal)

By Dan Canova | The Jersey Journal
on February 19, 2018 4:05 PM
Brianna Lee spews dominance on the basketball court.

As METS Charter’s undisputed leader for the 2017-18 season, the junior has conquered the landscape of girls basketball in the New Jersey Charter School Athletic League.

If her best individual act — a 40-point, 21-rebound performance — in a 70-29 win over Passaic Charter back on Jan. 30 didn’t convince you, maybe her 21 points and 11 rebounds in a METS Charter 47-37 victory over Brearley in the Hudson River Classic Tournament championship game, while earning Most Outstanding Player, did.

“We gave her some expectations of what we wanted and she’s risen to the challenge of everything that we asked of her,” METS Charter head coach Taquan Smith said. “We asked her to be the anchor of our defense… She’s just a dominant basketball player that can really change a basketball game.”

Lee has METS Charter on the cusp of completing a championship trifecta.

After already winning the Hudson River Classic Tournament, which ended up being the very first title in school history, the Mustangs also came away with the New Jersey Charter School Athletic League regular season crown, and are now one win away from the New Jersey Charter School Athletic League tournament title, when they take on second-seeded Academy for Urban Leadership on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Newark YMCA.

“It will mean that we took the process seriously and we got the results of taking the process seriously,” Smith said of possibly winning the title. “We try to focus on one possession at a time, one game at a time. We say that every single day. We say it so much, they probably dream about it.

“They come to practice with the right attitude, the right energy and the right work ethic. And to get the result of winning the championship, I think it will allow us to know that hard work really does pay off.”

Smith, the first-year head coach of METS Charter, brought what he calls, “a level of discipline, structure, and work ethic” to the program, which has made the girls learn the game of basketball easier, all while having fun doing it.

“We try to focus on conditioning, making the simple shots, and just playing with a lot of defensive intensity and energy,” he said. “I think the biggest part is that they really trust each other. When you add that element, it’s a little easier to get them in shape and help them with the fundamentals to help them win basketball games.”

The No. 1 seed of the Charter League Tournament, METS Charter stands at 21-2, and in its latest win, behind Lee’s 20 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, the Mustangs cruised to a 63-11 victory over fourth-seeded Academy Charter in the semifinal round on Friday, which ultimately set up their finals date with Academy for Urban Leadership.

Aside from Lee, who is averaging an incredible 23.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.4 steals per game this season, the Mustangs have relied heavily on junior point guard Joscelyn Williams and freshman Kamrin Babbs, both of whom have played vital roles in METS Charter’s success this season.

Williams is averaging 9.9 points, a team-high 5.9 assists, and 4.5 steals per game this year, while Babbs, a 6-foot-1 freshman sensation, has contributed 11.3 points, and 4.1 steals per game.

“Williams is a great point guard,” Lee said of her fellow teammate. “She passes the ball so well and you have to execute baskets when she does.”

“Babbs might have the highest ceiling out of all the players,” Smith added. “She can dribble, she can shoot, her ability to get to the rim, finish, and pass is really at an elite level, and she’s still growing. If she stays consistent with it, I think she can play collegiately.”

Smith has implemented a winning mentality into the METS Charter girls basketball program, however, the one thing that he says stands out about this specific team is a part that he couldn’t teach.

“It’s the togetherness,” Smith said. “The ability to trust each other. We always say trust the process, and trust one another. They’ve already trusted one another and you just can’t teach that. They do everything for each other. They come to practice for each other, in games they always encourage each other. When things get down, they don’t collapse under the pressure, they play for one another and when you play for each other, I think good things happen when you believe. This team is a testament of that.”

“We’ve been more determined to win more games this year,” Lee added. “Playing at METS Charter has been a great experience for me because I’ve been better as a basketball player. It’s great to be a part of a team that is making its own history.”

Dan Canova may be reached at dcanova@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanCanova. Find The Jersey Journal Sports section on Facebook.

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