By Thomas Sellers Jr.
CORDOVA — The second game of The Jewel Gates Era was a match up of his Millington Trojans against their former Head Coach Rob Sabau.
Sabau moved over to take charge of the St. Benedict Eagles program this summer. Meanwhile Gates entered his new office of the William Osteen Gymnasium to take over Millington.
While Sabau was establishing his mark in Cordova, Gates was building a new culture with the Trojans.
Friday both roads crossed in the St. Benedict Gymnasium with Sabau’s Eagles outlasting his old school 69-51.
A game that was tied 16-16 after one quarter slowly slipped away from the Trojans in the second and third quarters.
“One word you’ve heard me say since you’ve met me three, four months ago — toughness,” Gates said. “It got away because we weren’t tough enough to define. We weren’t tough enough to make a shot when it counted. We got it down to 10, got a turnover and got a shot at our end. They are not anywhere near us and we miss a layup by a senior.
“You’ve got to put that ball in the basket,” he continued. “You’re trying to make the game closer, a little bit tighter. But the toughness part came back to haunt us. We’re not tough enough yet.”
Millington displayed some toughness in the first quarter jumping out 2-0 after a basket by Cameron Tubbs. Then his teammate Hunter Klutts drained a three-pointer to make the score 5-3 in favor of the Trojans. Millington later received buckets from Dylan Nix to keep the contest close at 16-16.
St. Benedict broke the deadlock in the early moments of the second quarter with a 13-0 run concluding with a bucket by Trey Davis.
Justin Austin ended Millington’s drought with a layup in the post to make the score 29-18. The Eagles led 36-25 at the break.
In the third quarter Klutts was the offensive star for Millington draining a triple and making a couple of baskets in the paint. He had 21 points for the game by the end of the third quarter. But St. Benedict was ahead 55-44.
The Eagles outscored Millington 14-7 in the final quarter to pick up the victory.
“Just like I just told the guys in the back,” Gates said, “‘You can look good against a bad person. You can be bad against a bad person. But if you look bad against a good person? It’s going to be ugly.’ Tuesday night we’ve got a good person coming to town.”
On Nov. 22, the Trojans welcomed Germantown to the William Osteen Gymnasium as part of Hall of Fame Night. The Red Devils featured talent that would test the young Trojans.
“Tuesday Germantown Red Devils, it’s going to be a person who is really good,” Gates said. “We’ve better be able to be tough and ready to stand up and play. It’s not going to come down to Xs and Os, or running plays. It’s going to be how well can you box out. How well can you keep your man in front?
“And how well can you go up and score when you’re being closely defended?’ he concluded. “It’s going to be tougher than this Tuesday night. And I look forward because we’re going to see what we’re really made of.”