By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Alaina Bierdz was nailing threes.
Katelyn Price was finding open teammates. And Raygan Huffman was holding her own in the post Friday night in the Brighton Gymnasium.
The underdog Brighton Lady Cardinals were clicking in the first 16 minutes of their contest against rival and District 13-3A foe Munford.
But the 28-24 halftime score in favor of the Lady Cougars quickly transformed into a 40-27 deficit for Brighton. And Munford was able to pull away to win 59-33.
“We didn’t finish,” Brighton Head Coach Kent Cates said. “I talked about this with the girls and we talked about this at halftime. ‘It’s not a two quarter game, it’s a fourth quarter game.’ We played two quarters tonight. And against a good team, you don’t play four quarters, you don’t have a chance to win.”
On the other bench, Munford Head Coach Steve Poindexter was puzzled about the slow start of his first-place Lady Cougars.
“Defensively, we’ve been working on some things, trying to improve on some things to give a different look to our defense,” he noted. “It’s a work in progress. But I think this was a game, and I could be wrong, I’m not 100 percent sure our kids were not focused and ready to play for whatever reason.”
Poindexter said place aside the rivalry aspect, the Brighton game represents another league game for the Lady Cougars.
“The most important thing, it’s a district game,” he said. “I don’t care who you’re playing. This is a district game. I feel like we’re getting everybody’s best game. We have to do a better job of being mentally prepared for that from the beginning.
“Saying that, coming into the third quarter, the second half we came out with much more intenisty and played a lot better,” Poindexter added. “I appreciated that effort from my kids in the third and fourth quarter. If we’re going to be a championship team, we have to do that for four quarters.”
The first two quarters were a showcase for the Lady Cardinals. Brighton only trailed 10-7 after one quarter behind buckets from Huffman and Bierdz.
Bierdz hit a jumper and nailed a three pointer early in the game. And helped her team overcome a 16-9 deficit in the second quarter to lead 22-18.
After Lady Cardinal McCallie Ruffin hit a jumper to make the score 10-9, Lady Cougar Robneisha “Bird” Lee made a steal that led to a layup. Then her teammate Alex Turner drained a three-pointer that made the score 15-9.
Precious Mills made a free throw that made the Munford lead 16-9. Huffman ended the Lady Cougars run with a bucket. That basket sparked a 13-2 Brighton run.
Price was next to make a shot hitting a three-pointer. Bierdz made a jumper in the lane that made the score 18-16 in favor of Munford.
After a Huffman free throw, Bierdz made a jumper that gave Brighton a 19-18 lead with 3 minutes remaining in the first half. Then Bierdz stepped outside the arch and hit a triple to make the Lady Cardinals lead 22-18.
Munford regrouped in time to close out the first half on a 10-2 run to regain the lead. Mills scored three points in that stretch. Turner added five point in that run and when Kierra Webb located teammate Shaliyah Wiggins for a layup Munford lead 28-24 at the break.
“The first half was the best first half we’ve played all year against a good team this year,” Cates noted.
Munford put together a better third quarter outscoring Brighton 12-3. Turner got things started with a three-pointer that bounced off the rim, hit the top of the backboard and dropped through the net.
Lee and Mills drove to the basket for buckets. And Munford power forward Lauren Zvolanek made a move in the post for two points.
“That’s not the first time we hadn’t been able to make shots,” Cates noted. “It’s kind of beginning to be a trend. Right now we’re just not a really good shooting team. More important to me, the drop in the third quarter was we lost our composure. We started turning the ball over and not handling their trap like we know we can handle it. We have to go back and look at this film to see why we were making the mistakes we were mentally. We can make some adjustments to make it a better game.”
In the fourth quarter Munford sophomore Kierra Richardson helped close out the game with 10 points. She made two steals that led to uncontested layups. Richardson later nailed two three-pointers.
“We’re not at our best right now,” Poindexter said. “But I think the effort is there. And when it’s there, it’s there. It’s just not there for four quarters yet. I feel confident with the character of our kids, we’ll keep working and keep getting better.”
Cates said his team is also a work in progress and that he’s seeing positive signs from each game.
“We’re starting to put games together better,” he concluded. “It’s a learning process. When we go to the bench, we go young. We go real young. We go to freshmen and an inexperienced sophomore. It’s all a learning process.”