JACKSON — Over the years, veteran Brookfield Academy boys’ basketball coach Pat Clarey’s calling card has been offense, largely supplied by his now graduated four talented sons.

“They made us the highest scoring family in state history,” he said proudly.

But now that the brothers are gone, Clarey’s Academy team has had to change strategy and it was on full display Wednesday night at Living Word Lutheran in Jackson as the Blue Knights used a suffocating, intense half-court to force 18 first-half turnovers out of the Timberwolves enroute to a 41-8 lead.

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That impressive effort was more than enough for Academy to coast to a 72-24 Midwest Classic Conference victory, which kept the Blue Knights unbeaten in league play at 4-0 and improved them to 7-3 overall.

Clarey admits he is still getting used to the change in philosophy.

“Defense has to be the way we succeed this year,” he chuckled. “I almost throw up in my mouth saying that, but we just don’t have the offensive talent that we’re used to. I think we only have one play offensively (that we run), but the kids are engaged, they work hard, they’re connected, and they love each other.”

Forward Anthony Przybilla, one of four junior starters for the Blue Knights, scored 14 points, tying fellow junior Davis Arvold for game-high honors. He said it’s fun when the defense is going that well.

“It feels good,” Przybilla said. “It means we’re working together, playing with a lot of energy, communicating well and moving together as a group.

‘We try to do that every day.” Much to the chagrin of host LWL this night.

“They just play very intense defense,” said Timberwolves coach Joe Hennen, whose team fell to 0-3 in league play and 2-8 overall, “and it is very hard for us to simulate that kind of thing in practice.”

Indeed, it was as the Blue Knights scored the first eight points of the game to take control for good as Przybilla and junior guard Nolan Demski put in close-range shots and Arvold hit the first of his four 3-pointers on the night.

The Timberwolves got their first basket of the night on a shot from sophomore guard Easton Oliver at the 13:10 mark to break the Academy run, but that would be their only field goal for more than 10 minutes, as the small, but very loud LWL gym was made very claustrophobic by the Academy defense.

“The half-court line is where we pick things up defensively,” Clarey. “We’re trying to extend it but right now that’s where we’re effective.”

The Blue Knights coupled that stout defense with a 25-3 run that made the score 33-5 with 3:20 left in the half (all the other Timberwolves points were from the free throw line). A total of seven different Academy players scored in the effort.

LWL forward Jace Krueger finally rattled in a shot at the 2:59 mark but then the Blue Knights rolled in eight more in a row, including five by senior reserve guard Maliq Crawford.

The lead reached 68-17 with 6:41 left as substitutes for both sides played liberally in the second half.

Timberwolves’ reserve center Matthew Fox scored seven points in the second half and fellow reserve frontliner Jadon Lewis added six.

“We graduated a lot of scoring last year, so we’re trying to be patient,” said Hennen. “We’ve made some progress, but not so much tonight.”

Meanwhile, Clarey was happy that the Blue Knights did not look past LWL to their huge conference showdown at home on Saturday, Jan. 14 against third-ranked D5 polls Heritage Christian (12-0).

“This is our only chance against them (Christian) this season so we have to take advantage of it,” Clarey said. A total of nine Academy players scored against LWL. Helping out Przybilla and Arvold were Crawford with 11 and Demski with 10.

Going forward, Clarey and the Blue Knights will continue to do what works for them, even if it does strike the coach as odd.

“I’m really happy with how we’re playing,” Clarey said. “In our first game of the season against Shorewood (a loss), we would run down and jack up quick, terrible 3s and then we would come back and play defense for 35 seconds or so.

“Our next practice we spent all our time on defense and when the guys asked me why, I told them ‘Because that’s what you do best!’ So as long as we play defense and rebound well (which the Blue Knights did against LWL) I think we’ll be OK.”

Przybilla said there’s no reason to change the current philosophy.

“We’re helping each other (defensively) and rebounding well which is really good to see,” he said. “We just have to take it one game at a time, including that big one against Heritage.”