Ben Kling is the marksman in Stone Bridge’s sharp-shooting offense, tasked with weaving his way through a maze of screens at a full sprint, then turning on a dime to catch and launch three-pointers. It requires speed, precision and a willingness to run.
“It’s a shooter’s dream,” the junior guard said.
Kling’s 26 points, including 15 on three-pointers, led Stone Bridge to a 66-59 win against No. 18 Chantilly on Tuesday night in Ashburn.
At first glance, the Bulldogs’ offense appears based on nothing more than shooting three-pointers. There is a method to the madness though, that sends players driving around picks like particles in the center of an atom.
It gets open looks, Coach Corey Stitzel said. If a second defender steps up to stop Buckley, who in 28 minutes had just one turnover, someone else has to be open. And that someone else can knock down an open three.
“That’s how we play,” Stitzel said. “And we get good-quality shots every time down the floor.”
Eventually the Chargers (5-1) stopped playing help defense, and the strategy worked for a time. Kling scored 17 in the second quarter alone, but he was scoreless in the third quarter as Chantilly came back from three points down at the half to tie the game.
Kling went off again to start the fourth, canning a three-pointer to open the quarter. Tyler Ward hit another three to give the Bulldogs (3-3) an eight-point lead, their largest of the night, with six minutes to play.
Chantilly took a 59-58 lead with just fewer than three minutes to play off a runner from Kendall McHugh, who led the Chargers with 20 points.
But Kling — playing his first game of the season after the Bulldogs’ football season ended Saturday with a loss in the Virginia 5A state final — hit a flip shot in the lane to take the lead back for Stone Bridge, then two free throws to increase the margin to three points.
“It’s good to be back,” he said.
Until Monday, the Stone Bridge varsity couldn’t scrimmage five-on-five in practice. Stitzel only dressed nine players for games. Three more players joined the team late with Kling.
The extra manpower gave the Bulldogs a bit more spring in their step, Buckley said. When Chantilly mounted late runs, Stone Bridge had the energy to weather them and punch back. And a three-pointer is a pretty good run-stopper.
“When another team gets on a run,” Buckley said, “we have to stay patient and work to get a good shot. I know everyone on the floor can knock them down.”