By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The preseason in basketball is a time to gel, build team chemistry, and work on new sets and plays for your team.
But as the opening game approaches, a coach will turn his focus to the opponent and game planning. The scouting report on the Memphis Metro Home School Mustangs was try to control guard Nate Vaughn.
Sticking to that strategy had Millington Trojans Head Coach Rob Sabau’s squad up early last Thursday in the William Osteen Gymnasium. But Vaughn caught fire and helped the Mustangs give Millington a real scare. The Trojans behind clutch plays from seniors like Carlos Lipsey, Andrew Banks and Julian Daughtry were able to hold on for a 66-64 victory.
“We tried to do it the hard way the first half,” Sabau noted. “The first quarter, we’ve worked on nothing but half-court man defense for the last two and half weeks. Then yesterday I asked them to do something a little different, guard the best player on the other team. Their whole offense revolved around him. The first quarter they did a great job of it. They only had 6.
“The second quarter we allowed him to get into a little rhythm,” he continued. “They maybe got a little tired. We had some mixes in the rotation on him and some blown assignments. We let them get back into the game. The biggest frustion in the first half, we were not playing offense like we do in practice. It was every man for himself and a lot of jumpshots.”
Millington watched its first quarter 8-6 lead evaporate into a Vaughn shooting clinic in the second quarter. His teammate Mike Long hit a couple of triples to help the Mustangs stay close.
With the score tied at 20-20, MMHS closed out the first half on a 9-2 run with Vaughn hitting a triple, layup and some free throws.
“Vaughn is a good player,” Sabau said. “All you can do is try to slow him down. And I think we did a good job of that in the second half. And we also started playing better offense. We started getting the ball inside. Playing patient offense. We outscored them by 10 points.”
The Trojans got to work on cutting into the Mustangs’ 29-22 halftime lead with Banks scoring on a put-back bucket. Then Daughtry continued the Trojans 16-9 outburst in the third quarter with a steal and layup.
The score became 38-37 in favor of MMHS when Daughtry fired a pass to Kelvin Jones for a layup and foul. The three-point play made the deficit one point. Later Jones made a foul shot to tie the game at 38-38.
Trojan guard Kolby Hollowell finally regained the lead for Millington with a Euro-step move to the rim for a layup. But Vaughn broke free for a few moments to make sure the game was deadlock at 46-46 heading into the final quarter.
Millington grabbed an early lead in the fourth quarter courtesy of Lipsey with a free throw and tip-back to make the tally 51-48.
Later Vaughn hit another triple to give the Mustangs the lead at 53-51. MMHS nursed its advantage with Vaughn foul shots to a score of 60-58.
Banks tied the game at 60-60 with a jumper. Vaughn responded with a J of his own to give the Mustangs a momentary advantage of 62-60.
Daughtry answered with a jumpshot to once against tie the game. After MMHS took its final lead of the night at 64-62, Daughtry drained a three-pointer to give Millington the lead for good. The senior guard added a free throw to make the final 66-64.
“Kolby Hollowell played a good game,” Sabau noted. “Carlos Lipsey started off kind of shaky. But he showed some perservance and fought through the adversity. He ended up making some pretty big plays for us in the second half. That’s a tribute to him and how tough he is.”
Sabau said young players like Jaterius Bryant, Cameron Crawford, Kelvin Jones and J’Sebian Brown provided quality minutes to help the senior duo of Daughtry and Banks.
“This time of the year, you’re playing a dangerous team like that which has a really, really good player,” Sabau said. “You’re missing some key pieces. We had George Anderson out tonight. And we had a couple of key pieces out with football and hopefully for a couple more weeks. This time of year you take those wins anyway you can get them.
“But you also put in a Jaterius Bryant to get some quality minutes,” he concluded. “A J’Sebian Brown who is also a sophomore got get some experience to get them ready to contribute down the line or definitely next year.”