By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The last time the Brighton Cardinals saw Queyon Mills, he was at the free throw line of the Brighton Gymnasium hitting three clutch foul shots to win the game for the Munford Cougars 36-34.
Fast forward to the rematch Friday night in the Munford Gymnasium, Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin had a couple of new wrinkles for the Cougars. Gatlin’s offensive game plan was to get the ball inside to Kolton Childress and Terrlwayne White.
And Gatlin’s other change in the game plan involved White on defense against Mills.
“We were trying to get as much energy out there on the perimeter as we can,” Gatlin noted. “Twayne is one of our best athletes. I asked him, ‘Can you guard him? He’s a great shooter.’ We had to try to take some of that away from him by taking his legs away. With all their shooters, we tried to take their legs away.”
The Cardinals’ plan worked leading to a 49-40 victory. The game plan took a while to get going with the score 10-9 in favor of Brighton after one quarter.
Then Childress started to dominate in the paint in the second quarter.
The senior forward had 6 points inside. And with the threat of passing the ball to Childress, Brighton guard Tramaine Cooper drove to the rim for a layup drawing a late foul.
The Munford defense reacted late to Cooper’s drive to the rim because of staying near Childress. The Cardinals led 25-18 at the break.
With White harassing Mills around the court, it was difficult for the Cougars to get into a flow. Meanwhile Brighton build a double-digit lead in the third quarter when Childress made another bucket to make the score 35-25.
“I’m really proud of our effort tonight overall but especially defensively,” Gatlin said. “We tried something different defensively. The guys played with a lot more effort tonight.”
The Cardinals entered the fourth quarter the owners of a 37-27 advantage. The combination of White and Childress scoring near the rim made the tally 43-31.
The Cougars had an uphill battle. Mills and his teammate Dominique Bell hit some shots including a couple of three-pointers. But free throws from Cardinal guard Colby Butler iced the game for Brighton.
The victory snapped a losing streak for the Cardinals.
“The last two years, the program has won 5 games,” Gatlin said. “Tonight made our 10th victory. So we’ve doubled the amount of victories the past two seasons in one season. That’s big for our guys confidence. They understand they can win and that they are winners. When you try to change a culture and a mentality, it’s hard. Especially when the wins are not coming.
“We were on a 7 game losing streak,” he concluded. “Some games we should have been winning. So to see these guys step up to the challenge in this game here, in a hostile territory and a rival game, means a whole lot to the program. I love coaching these guys. We’re going to get better. And they want to win and I love that.”