By Thomas Sellers Jr.
If they awarded the 2016 District 13-3A Boys Basketball Tournament MVP after the semifinals, Brighton’s Zach Lewis would be taking the plaque home.
Friday night the Cardinal guard/forward scored 16 point in the first half against the Hardin County Tigers. Lewis’ night ended with 26 points on 80 percent shooting from the Brighton Gymnasium floor.
He grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 2 assists in helping Brighton beat Hardin County 59-27 to advance to Tuesday night’s championship game.
“He’s been doing that all year,” Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin said. “He started off strong like that and then he had a little lowel to where he stopped stopping.
“I told him, ‘Please start back to shooting,’” Gatlin continued. “‘Man, you shot close to 80 percent all the time. Shoot the ball.’ It took him a while. And now he seems to be back at it again scoring 17, 20 and tonight 26. He’s coming back full circle. I’m extremely proud of him right now.”
Lewis’ effort helped the Cardinals jump out to a 21-10 lead after one quarter. Brighton teammates Alex Malone and Taeylr Gatlin hit a combined three three-pointers in the opening period.
Then the second quarter was the Zach Lewis Show with him hitting a layup to make the score 28-10. After the Tigers snapped the Brighton 7-0 run to open the second quarter with a bucket. Lewis made another shot in the paint to make the score 30-12.
Later in the second quarter Gatling flipped a pass over his shoulder to a wide open Lewis for a basket to make the score 34-17.
To close out the first half, Gatlin hit a jumper and Colby Butler hit Lewis in the lane for a layup to make the score 38-18.
In the second half Brighton used a patient offense to maintain its sizable lead and close out Hardin County.
The third quarter closed out with Tramaine Cooper and Lewis hitting baskets to make the score 50-22. In the fourth quarter, Brighton received baskets from Lewis and Gatlin. And Malone hit a triple to make the final score 59-27.
The defeat set up a Hardin County vs. Munford Cougars match up in the consolation game Tuesday night. The game that followed was Dyer County vs. Brighton.
Both the Cardinals and Choctaws guaranteed themselves a home game to kickoff the Region 7-3A Tournament Saturday night.
“Extremely important, even though we played well on the road this year,” Gatlin said. “It’s nothing like being at home and giving our fans another opportunity to see us play again at home. Of course we hope the fans will come out and support us in the game. That will be really nice to see them come out and support us.”
Before Brighton took on the competition from District 14-3A, the Cardinals had to focus on trying to bring home a District 13-3A championship.
“Brighton has to worry about Brighton,” Gatlin said. “We’ll let everything take care of itself. If we come out and play the kind of ball we know how to play, we’re going to be tough to beat. If we don’t share the ball and play tough-nose defense, it’s going to be hard for us to win a game.
“That’s our identity playing tough defense and sharing the ball,” he concluded. “And that’s what my guys are doing right now and I’m extremely proud of these guys.”