By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The talk around the Millington Central High School campus last week was Cameron Tubbs’ buzzer beater against the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels.
The Millington Trojans hoped the shot would be a boost coming into Friday night’s game against another area rival the Munford Cougars. It appeared Tubbs’ clutch play boost of energy had worn off.
Ryan Ross’ Cougars were ahead 10-2 and led 10-5 after one quarter. Millington settled down and used a 9-2 run to regain the lead.
The Trojans kept up the defensive pressure leading to transition points and a 58-41 victory.
“The other night at TRA we did give up the lead,” Millington Head Coach Jewel Gates said. “We were up by 9 points. But we let them back in it. We kept fighting. We scored every trip down about the last three or four trips. That’s what we had to do.
“Tonight they got back into it,” he added. “They got to within 10. We didn’t give in. That’s what we need. We have to develop that, ‘OK, so you’re going to go on your run. Now it’s our turn.’ That’s part of Jewel Gates Ball and Jewel Gates teaching.”
The Trojans started to exercise Gates’ lessons in the second quarter when Bobby Gates scored on put-back bucket to make the score 10-7. Millington tied the game when Hunter Klutts drained a triple.
A pair of free throws gave the Trojans the lead 12-10.
Behind the solid defense of guard Johnny Mattox, the Trojans kept the Cougars off course on offense. Millington led 19-12 at one point after a Mattox triple.
Munford kept pace behind the play of Kelen Ivy. The Cougars trailed 26-21 at halftime. Millington came out of the locker room ready to answer the challenge of Gates.
“We talked about this before we came out, ‘To start the third quarter, let’s get 5 stops,’” Gates said. “On five straight trips and let’s go down and get us a basket. I don’t know if we got 5 but we got at least 4.”
The pressure of Mattox and older brother Bryce led to 13-0 Millington run to start the third quarter. The Trojans’ rally started with a pair of Klutts triples. It took an Ivy three-point play to end the Cougars’ drought and make the tally 39-24.
Millington closed out the period on a 9-4 run sparked by a Mac Coulter basket in the paint. Bryce Mattox hit a three-pointer and a shot in the lane to help the Trojans lead 48-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cougars fought back in the fourth quarter with 10-0 run beginning with a Deon Banks shot. Later when Banks hit a three-pointer the score was 48-38.
Millington settled down and closed out the game on a 10-3 to earn the victory.
“We finally realized our heart,” Gates said. “How hard are we going to play? The first quarter we came out like Munford is going to lay down and give us a ball game. Munford is 8 miles away, just up the road. I’m from Munford. Most people know that. Their kids know that. And we’ve got to understand that. We don’t get that sometimes — that part. But hopefully that’s coming.”