By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Maybe an extra day of preparation would have been useful for the Millington Trojans.
But with wintry weather expected to move into the area Friday morning, the district showdown between the Trojans and defending State champions the Haywood County Tomcats was moved to Thursday night.
The Trojans’ game plan was in full effect early on in the William Osteen Gymnasium with Millington taking a 14-11 lead into the second quarter. The contest remained close throughout the second quarter with the Trojans only behind 23-22 at the break.
Then the Tomcats turned up the defensive pressure in the second half building a 38-30 lead after 24 minutes of action. Haywood held Millington to just 8 points in the fourth quarter to prevail 55-38.
“It’s like I told them after the game,” Millington Head Coach Rob Sabau said. “They just got a lesson of what it takes to be a State champion defensively. They decided they were not going to let us score. And they did a pretty good job of it in the second half in general. But particularly in the fourth quarter, that’s the kind of intensity you have to bring defensively. Hopefully they learn a lesson.”
The Trojans were giving the lessons in the first quarter behind 9 points from Cameron Crawford. The Millington senior hit three triples to help the Trojans lead 9-4.
His teammate Kelvin Jones scored on a three-point play to make the tally 12-6. After a Mac Coulter basket in the paint Millington was ahead 14-11 after one quarter.
The second quarter was a slugfest with Haywood taking the lead at 17-16 after a Jonathan Mattox three-pointer for Millington.
The Trojans were behind 20-17 midway through the second when Kolby Hollowell drained a triple to tie the game.
When Millington senior forward Prensten Macon located Jones in the paint with a pass for a layup the Trojans were back ahead 22-20. That would be Millington’s last advantage of the night. Haywood hit a three-pointer at the end of the half to lead 23-22.
Haywood outscored Millington 15-8 in the third quarter. And the Tomcats held the Trojans to 8 points in the fourth quarter while scoring 17 points.
The first half illustrated to Sabau his team has what it takes to make a run in February when the district tournament starts.
“We’ve got the pieces,” he said. “We’ve got size, athleticism. And we’ve got some of the best shooters around here. We just don’t always play the right way. We’re starting to learn that.
“At the end of the day we would like to have a better record,” Sabau added. “And we could have won a game or two, here or there. As long as we’re playing our best basketball at the district tournament, that’s all that counts.”
With a few more league games to conclude the regular season, Sabau said his team has time to understand what it takes to win in crunch time.
“Of course I’m basis because I coach them, but if it all clicks and comes together they’re good enough to win the district tournament,” he concluded. “If we put it all together, I think we have the pieces and enough talent to win the whole thing.”