Friday, January 16, 2009

Light Recruited Morra Packs Punch for Bruins

Lightly Recruited Morra Packs Punch for Bruins
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, January 16, 2009; E07

In a Lake Braddock basketball practice this week, Dominic Morra finished off an intense, 10-minute, three-man weave drill with a right-handed layin that spun off the glass and through the basket.

But Morra wasn't done.

Without looking back to see his shot through the net, he ran to a white tarp divider that separated the junior varsity and varsity practices and delivered a flurry of punches -- a right cross, left hook and right uppercut -- that sent a series of loud pops throughout the Burke school's gymnasium.

The sequence was appropriate for Morra, a 5-foot-10 senior and four-year starter. He has approached each of the Bruins' first 12 games like a fight, using a body-punishing bevy of moves to earn himself an astounding 17.7 free throw attempts per game.

"I'm kind of good at [drawing fouls] and some of it's acting," said Morra, who is the area's leading scorer with 31.8 points per game.

Headed into tonight's key Virginia AAA Patriot District matchup at No. 9 T.C. Williams (10-2, 5-0), Morra has gone to the free throw line 212 times, hitting 159 (.750).

He has attempted 81 more free throws than National Christian's Dante Taylor, who is second in the area with 131 attempts. Landon's Christian Webster (118) and Westfield's Chris Kearney (117) are the only others who come close to Morra's eye-popping attempts.

"If you told me as a freshman and sophomore, when I was a natural point guard, that I would wind up averaging [31 points per game] or whatever it is right now, I would have told you you were crazy," Morra said. "But things have happened to our team that have changed the situation."

Lake Braddock's 13-man roster lists seven players at 5-11 or shorter.

"Our tallest player is 6-3," said Morra, whose back-court running mate is 5-4, 145-pound junior Patch McLucas.

The lack of height has forced Lake Braddock (9-3, 3-2) into a fast-break system, in which Morra has been encouraged by Coach Brian Metress to attack in transition and use his body to draw fouls.

"We're not as big, so if we can foul out their big players, we don't have to play the inside game anymore and we practice that," Morra said. "We practice playing without a post player. So if we can get their 6-6 and 6-7 [players] in foul trouble, well, the ball's in our court now."

In a 77-67 season-opening victory over Robinson, Morra shot 18 of 27 from the free throw line and fouled out five Ram defenders en route to his 50 points -- an area best for points in a game this season.

In the Bruins' first 12 games this season, 21 defenders have fouled out.

"I'm not always going to get the shot off, but I can always try to get a bump and a push to go to the line for two [points] and get someone in foul trouble, so it's more of a double-whammy for them," Morra said.

Morra credits his four years as a starter with helping him to identify situations and diagnose defenses on the run.

"A lot of teams now, since they've seen what I've put up, they are anticipating me coming," said Morra, who said he has faced all kinds of defenses. "Sagging man-to-man with a face-guard, zones, half-traps, full-court press. I've been in so many positions now that I can tell if [the defender] is close or if he has no chance of making the play on [me] and that just comes with all the time I've done it."

Whether he will play at the next level remains to be seen. Despite his scoring numbers, he has received tepid interest from area Division III schools.

Morra entered the program with high expectations and has always played with a swagger.

"I've been [called] cocky in the hallways since I was a freshman," said Morra, who led the Bruins in technical fouls as a freshman (five) and as a sophomore (four). "I think it's a swagger you need to have. But now, it's a different way that I carry myself. It's more with my game than with my talk."

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