By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Newton Mealer brought his young Center Hill program from Olive Branch, Miss., to Brighton, Tenn., for an early season test.
The Center Hill Mustangs came to life just a few years ago and now are a ranked program in the area with a 10-2 record before taking on Darryle Rogers’ Cardinals.
The match up of two teams full of young, talented players was competitive on the Brighton Gymnasium hardwood for three quarters Dec. 16 before the Mustangs were able to pull away for a 76-61 victory.
“It was the fourth quarter that got us,” Rogers acknowledged. “We’ve been trying to work on this, playing a full 32 minutes. We haven’t played a complete 32-minute game yet. One night it’s the third quarter. The next night it’s the fourth.”
The Mustangs led by CJ Chatman made an early statement taking a 9-2 lead. Using his jump shot, Chatman scored 7 of those 9 points.
Lorenzo Hunt sparked a rally for Brighton with a jumper of his own. His teammate Tra Cooper connected on 3 of 4 foul shots to make the score 9-7.
Moments later Brighton received a three-pointer from Markerro Broadrax to make the score 12-10 in favor of Center Hill. Both squads closed out the first quarter with 6 points each with the Mustangs holding an 18-16 advantage.
The second quarter remained close with Brighton finally taking the lead at 33-32 courtesy of a Terrlwayne White put-back bucket. The Cardinals were ahead 35-33 at the break.
Brighton continued its solid play in the third quarter. Chatman hit a trey to give the Mustangs a 42-39 lead.
The Cardinal answered back with four quick points with two coming from a Hunt jump shot.
With the game tied at 45-45, Cardinal Milton Hardy hit a jumper to put Brighton back ahead. Center Hill answered thanks to the Coach’s son Jake Mealer. The younger Mealer drove to the rim for a layup to make the score 47-47.
After the Mustangs took a 49-47 lead, Hardy hit another jumper to tie the game at 49 all.
Chatman broke that deadlock with another bucket. But a Hardy put-back basket sparked a Cardinal 5-0 run to close out the third.
Brighton was ahead 54-51 at the start of the fourth quarter. Center Hill opened the final period with a 10-0 run to take control of the game.
“I’m going to take it as the guys being young,” Rogers said. “I think we are well-prepared. And the guys do play hard. We’ve just got to learn how to finish out an entire game.”
Rogers said when his team has played close to 32 minutes they have been victorious and successful like the Dyersburg and Kirby games. Brighton concluded their pre-Christmas schedule with a couple of games at Lausanne.