By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The game between the Millington Lady Trojans and Brighton Lady Cardinals transformed into a chess match between head coaches Bruce Marshall and Kent Cates.
The first move of Friday night to earn a check was Cates employing his Lady Cardinals to press Millington ball handlers all over the William Osteen Gymnasium court. Marshall countered using his big pieces including junior center Glenda Garner to overcome a double-digit deficit.
But it was Cates saying checkmate by the end of the night changing his defense to surround Garner. Brighton was able to leave Millington with a 42-37 victory.
“We changed our zone up,” Cates noted. “We were in a 1-2-2 zone most of the game. We changed it up to a 2-3 to take up some inside space. We changed the zone up on them to be more effective on stopping them from getting the ball inside. We were putting more people around the big kids.”
Brighton’s 1-2-2 helped the Lady Cardinals build a 12-2 lead after one quarter. Danielle Collins put Brighton up 3-0 with a triple. Her teammates Shayna Johnson, Makayla Rose, Lindsey Morrissett and Jada Johnson all contributed to building the early advantage.
The Lady Cardinals were ahead 17-10 at the break taking advantage of Millington foul trouble sending players like Marquisha Sanders and Garner to the bench.
The Lady Trojans stayed within shouting distance with Travana DeSouz, Traci Clark and Anjeleca Sykes hitting buckets.
“The first half, my younger kids came into the ball game and kept us in it,” Marshall said. “They did a great job because all of our starters were sitting with us.
“In the second half, we were running one of our sets called ‘Purple,’” he continued. “We were able to catch them off guard to where we could make the easy pass to the corner and then dump it into the post for layups. We had a size advantage.”
Garner got the ball from her guards to help Millington overcome its deficit. Then Garner’s post mate Tamia Aldridge tied the game at 23-23 with a layup.
Shayna Johnson took the lead back for Brighton with a pair of foul shots. Garner tied the game at 25-25 to end the third quarter with a shot off the glass.
Millington took an early lead in the fourth quarter with Garner making a steal leading to layup and foul. Her three-point play made the score 30-27.
Jherkia Brown increased Millington’s lead with two foul shots. Morrissett ended Brighton’s drought with a jumper.
With the Lady Trojans ahead 34-29, Brighton went on a 8-1 run to regain the lead. Shayna hit a three-pointer to regain the advantage for the Lady Cardinals at 37-35.
Down the stretch Brighton got free throws from Shayna, Jada, Collins and former Millington Lady Trojan Keyona Johnson to hold for the 42-37 win.
“They just work hard everyday,” Cates said of his team. “These kids are tenacious. Win or lose, they come out the next day and just keep working. They don’t look at the scoreboard.
“We didn’t shoot well but we gutted the game out,” he added. “We just kept working. Every possession on offense and defense, we just kept working.”
Marshall the work his Lady Trojans are putting in will put them in a position to win the next chess match.
“The kids are getting smarter,” he said. “They’re understanding where we need to be in this situation. What we need to be looking for. It’s like our first conversation at the beginning of the season on what it’s going to take for us to be successful this year.
“We’ve got to have discipline and be able to execute,” Cates concluded. “We’ve been our biggest worst enemy. That’s not taking anything away from the Lady Cardinals tonight. They played their butts off. We’re giving other teams too many opportunities.”