By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Maybe it was thoughts of guarding Memphis Metro Home School Mustang guard Nate Vaughn.
Or it could have been the absence of second leading score Terrelwayne White, but the Brighton Cardinals had a slow start last Thursday in front of the home crowd in the Brighton Gymnasium.
Brighton fell behind early and led 7-5 midway through the first quarter. But a floater by Monterious Chambers sparked Brighton to outscore the Mustangs 30-17 the rest of first half.
The Cardinals used pressure all over the court, tight defense on Vaughn and passing on the offensive side to pull away for an 82-46 victory.
“They all were nervous,” Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin noted of the slow start. “This is all new territory for all of them. That was the reason why for a missed assignment here and there. I had a few guys out there who didn’t played basketball on the varsity level last year out there on the floor.
“This is all new and as we take step and progress, they’re learning to take more confidence in their steps,” he added. “As we take steps, they’re learning to trust their footing. That was us taking another step, getting rid of the insecurities. In your head, you’re telling yourself, ‘I’m not good enough. I’m not that good.’ But they’re learning to see they are better than what they think. They’re gaining that confidence.”
The confidence seem to explode for the Cardinals when Chamber hit the floater in the lane. His teammate Tramaine Cooper made a steal on the next play leading to a layup.
Moments later the Cardinals made another steal with the ball ending up in the hands of Taelyr Gatlin. The freshman guard flipped a no-look pass out to the perimeter for Cooper leading to a three-pointer and 14-5 Brighton lead.
The Cardinals were ahead 14-10 after one period. The Brighton advantage was trimmed to 14-13 early in the second quarter.
The next few minutes Brighton conducted a 12-3 run to build a double-digit lead. Cooper hit another triple in that span. Gatlin continued his passing highlights tossing an over-the-head no-look pass to teammate John Francis for a three-pointer.
Seconds later Gatlin located Cooper again behind the arch for a three-pointer that made the score 26-16. Brighton outscored MMHS the rest of the half 11-6 to lead 37-22.
Gatlin and the Cardinals made a few more adjustments in the second half still trying to replace the 18 points a game White provides.
The boost came from Kolton Childress who finished with 19 point hitting layups and rebounding the ball for put-back baskets.
“That’s awesome,” Gatlin said. “I told certain guys what I needed from them with Twayne out. I told Johnny to give me 10 or 15 if you can. I told Kolton, ‘Man, I’m going to need 15 or 20 from you.’ That’s it right there.”
Francis hit 10 points off the bench. Francis and Childress were two of five Cardinals to hit double figures on the night. Taelyr finished with 19 points as well and Cooper added 18 points. Chambers had 13 points in the scoring column.
Gatlin came into the game as the leading scorer for Brighton. His counterpart Vaughn usually leads the way for the Mustangs averaging 36 points. But against Brighton he only tallied 20 points.
“You have a player like that who is high caliber, you have to make a point of emphasis,” Coach Gatlin said. “I told the guys, ‘He averages 36 points a game. I don’t want him to touch 20 if we can.’ He’s a phenomenal player.”
But the phenomenal play of the Cardinals led to a 60-36 advantage after three quarters. Brighton outscored MMHS 22-10 in fourth quarter with Cooper, Childress and Francis hitting shots.
“When we share the ball and play our roles, we’ll be hard to beat,” Gatlin concluded. When we play our roles and trust our system, we have to give all we have out there. The win is going to take care of itself.”