By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — By the 4 minute, 3 second mark of the first quarter, the scoreboard in the LeMoyne-Owen Gymnasium was busy for the home side.
All five Brighton Cardinal starters had scored in the opener of the 46th Annual MLK Invitational. The Cardinals were ahead 21-1 over the Soulsville Tornadoes.
“That’s good basketball right there,” Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin said. “If we can play basketball like that and share the ball, have fun, that’s good basketball. I love that.”
Gatlin loved the 78-21 final and his team advancing in the winner’s bracket. The tidal waves of points started with a Zach Lewis three-pointer.
After a Soulsville free throw, the Cardinals answered with a 25-0 run featuring Lewis, Taelyr Gatlin, Aaron Alston, Aaron Hall and Jordan Johnson. The Brighton starters shared the ball in the halfcourt sets leading to buckets.
And the Cardinals’ pressure defense forced Tornado turnovers leading to fast break baskets. Lewis’ second triple of the game made the score 26-1.
“It’s giving me flashbacks to other teams that I had that were good,” the elder Gatlin said. “To see that maturity in them with just a couple of seniors, my starting lineup is four juniors and a sophomore. To see them go out there and handle their business is something special.”
Then it was time for the Brighton second unit to hit the collegiate floor led by Alex Malone and Ethan Bell.
It was that combination making the score 28-1 when Bell stole the ball and located Malone for a layup. Soulsville finally made a field goat at the minute and 55 second mark of the first quarter with a three-pointer.
“Alex and Ethan Bell really stepped and played some ball today,” Gatlin said. “I’m proud of them and they did really well leading that second group.”
Brighton closed out the first quarter on a 10-0 run to lead 38-4. Bell made two triples in that span.
The Cardinals held Soulsville to 8 points in the second quarter while scoring 17 points. Alston got the offense rolling in the second period with a layup, a pair of free throws and a put-back bucket. Then Taelyr made a layup to make the score 46-7. Once again Bell closed out a quarter with a hot hand scoring a three-point play and making a steal leading to a break away basket. Brighton was ahead 55-12 at halftime.
In the third quarter the Cardinals displayed some athleticism and power with a Alston power funk and a Lewis fast break slam. The score was 69-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals scored 9 points in the final period while Soulsville had it’s best output for a quarter with 7 points.
While to the naked eye the Cardinals had a dominate performance but Gatlin saw a few things that needed to be addressed.
“Indecision on fast breaks, we made a couple of bad passes and missed some layups,” Coach Gatlin noted. “We’ve go to be sure of what we’re going to do once we got the ball in our hands.”