For that to happen, Creekview (9-8, 4-3) will have to rely on the play of Brandon Pressley, Matt Leahy and Beau Blackwell — three players Gramling considers to be the leaders of his squad, and a group that provides a combination of power, finesse and speed.
Operating as the muscle is 6-foot-4 center Pressley, who Gramling described as the team’s “glue.”
Pressley, who was named to all-Region 7AAAA team last year, has provided the Grizzlies with a strong, physical presence on both ends of the court.
“Brandon is naturally a power forward, but he always plays and defends bigger than he is,” Gramling said of Pressley, who averages 13.7 points and close to seven rebounds per game. “He is always defending the other teams’ best player, and is usually outmatched for size. He gets beat up and bruised every night, but he provides to team with toughness.”
After improving upon his shooting in the summer, Pressley also leads the team in 3-point shooting.
“Coming from our center, that’s pretty impressive,” Gramling said.
Contrasting Pressley’s power is the speed of Blackwell.
“He is probably the fastest player I’ve ever coached,” Gramling said. “He is our energy guy. He brings us speed and quickness.”
Gramling said that it isn’t just speed that Blackwell provides, but the will to win as well.
“He wants to succeed. Beau is just a warrior,” the coach said. “He wants to win at all costs. He leads the team in steals, and if he gets hot, he can score a lot of points. He can shoot the ball from pretty much everywhere.”
Though Gramling felt that Blackwell started the year slowly, he expects him to hit his stride sooner rather than later.
“He’s starting to build more chemistry with some of our newer players,” Gramling said, “so he’s starting to improve.”
As far as improvement is concerned, no player, according to Gramling, has made as large a jump in the past year as Leahy.
“When we got Matt as a freshman, we knew he had all the tools, but during games he would disappear,” Gramling said. “He’s always had potential. This summer, he said that he was ready to be the player he should be — the light just kind of came on for him. Now, he is one of the best players we have, if not our best player.”
Leahy, averaging 13.1 points a game, is the player Creekview depends on to take shots when time is winding down, said Gramling, who attributes Leahy’s improved play to a rise in his level of confidence.
“When he started working hard, he knew that he had changed something,” Gramling said. “Last year, he would get down on himself and we wouldn’t feel confident enough to keep him in the game, but now he plays almost every minute. He gets better every night.”
Gramling felt that the three players’ ability to provide leadership is just as important — if not more so — as the numbers they put up each night.
“If you took them away, we wouldn’t just lose a lot of scoring, but a lot of leadership,” Gramling said. “Our record would look a bit worse, sure, but we depend on them for more than just what they put in the stat book. Each one of them is just as important as the other.”