Brownell's eighth grade boys basketball team won the Santa Clara County South Section League Championship with a win over Britton Middle School on Feb. 3. The Bruins are undefeated (5-0) in the South County and headed to the playoffs. Top row (left to rig
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GILROY—The last time Brownell won a league championship, its coach Elijah Harrell was on the roster.
That was 10 years ago.
This year’s eighth grade squad repeated its coach’s success, beating Morgan Hill’s Britton Middle School on Feb. 3 to win the Santa Clara County South Section League Championship and preserve its undefeated 5-0 record.
“It felt good because we haven’t won a banner since 2005,” Bruins player Marshall Silva said. “It shows that we’re the best team in 10 years.”
The Bruins were aware of their coach’s success when they kicked off their season and have worked tirelessly to match it.
Logan Sutter, Brownell’s big man, said they practiced every day—including weekends— and even over winter break. The Bruins put in long hours working on drills and conditioning, and Sutter said it felt good to have those pay off in the form of a championship banner. 
“I think this season has just been a reflection of the amount of time we’ve put in, the hours,” the 14-year-old Sutter said. “We were all driven and we all had that motivation to complete the thing that the last 10 years of students have not and that’s to get the banner.”
Brownell dominated its opponents, winning all its games by at least 10 points. But the scores, Harrell said, aren’t how he measures the team’s success. Instead, he uses the amount of fun the Bruins have on the court as a gauge. And fun, as it turns out, translates to victories.
“We’ve been told to have fun all season,” 14-year-old Ben Sanford said. “One game he told us to have fun and that really got into our heads. It was the third game of the season and that’s when we started blowing teams out and getting those ‘W’s.”
This season has also created chemistry amongst the Bruins unlike any they’ve had before. Sanford said he and his teammates are like brothers on and off the court and it’s made for a memorable final season at Brownell.
“We’ve all grown together as a family,” Sanford said. “We’ve never had a coach that’s actually brought us together and he motivated us.”
Teammate Andrew Kachel added: “Our locker room chants are just amazing. The way we all get pumped up is crazy. We all work as a team; it’s great.”
That sense of togetherness has translated to the community, too.
Harrell said the gym has been packed for every home game this season. That support, he said, does wonders for the athletes not only on the basketball court, but in the classroom too.
And speaking of the classroom, the Bruins are all stars there as well.
Every student-athlete on the team is on the Honor Roll or Principal’s List. The Bruins average a 3.2 team GPA and a handful of them have maintained a 4.0 individually.
“They’re definitely a smart group of kids,” Harrell said. “When they’re doing it (being successful) in the classroom, it makes it that much easier to translate that positive energy onto the basketball court.”
The Bruins will look to continue their perfect season when they take on Rancho Milpitas Middle School at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday at Brownell.
The key to victory, Harrell said, is confidence.
“(They need to) just believe in themselves and have fun,” the Bruins coach said. “That’s really all I preach to these guys: believe in their talent, believe in the work they’ve put in. …When they have fun, I have fun—we all fun. The parents and everyone notices how much fun we’re having when we’re out here. That, to me, reflects the whole team. It’s a big deal.”

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