By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Stan Gatlin has earned the nickname the “Mad Gatter” for building championship and record-breaking teams at Millington, Southwind and Brighton.
Last season Gatlin’s Brighton Cardinals finished one win away from reaching the 20-victories mark. A couple of District 13-3A games got away last year that would have assisted the total.
Coming into this season Gatlin has devised a formula to reach the 20-win goal and advance further than any other Brighton Cardinal Basketball team — past the Regional Semifinals.
One of Brighton’s benchmarks is winning the league this season. After wins over Dyer County and Munford, the Hardin County Tigers came to town to complete Brighton’s first run through district.
The Cardinals improved to 3-0 in league play beating the Tigers 56-35 in the Brighton Gymnasium.
“It was fair,” Gatlin said. “We had one good showing against a very strong opponent. This was probably one of the top teams too. And Munford is always going to play strong. I would rate us fair. I think we can play better.
“There are some things I have to fix now that I know some of the things the other teams are going to try to do,” he added. “I get to go into the lab and figure out some stuff to make us play a little bit better.”
Gatlin’s work in the lab was paying off in the first half with the Cardinals jumping out 21-7 in the first 8 minutes. Brighton players like Zach Lewis, Alex Malone, Aaron Alston and Taelyr Gatlin all contributed to the 21 points in the opening quarter.
Lewis drained a pair of three-pointer and Gatlin hit a triple of his own to make the lead 14 points.
Cardinal Jordan Johnson got the team rolling in the second quarter with a put-back bucket. Taelyr Gatlin stayed hot in the period hitting a couple of jumpers.
The highlight of the second quarter was a Malone and-one basket. The senior guard made the foul shot leading to a 34-18 lead. The first half concluded with Lewis hitting another three-pointer to make the tally 37-18.
Both teams were miss firing in the third quarter with the Tigers scoring 8 points. Brighton managed 9 points in the third quarter with Alston scoring 6 points.
The Cardinals were ahead 46-26 entering the final quarter. The advantage grew to 22 points when the younger Gatlin made a steal leading to a coast-to-coast layup.
The Tigers tried to claw back into the game with a 7-0 run to make the score 48-33.
“One positive thing I did see was we did a good job of staying the course and settling down at the end,” Gatlin noted. “When they made a little run to cut it down to 15, we could have just folded. We did a good job of settling down and increasing the intensity. I’m going to always hang my hat on defense. Hopefully we can keep that going especially facing more challenges from these teams.”
Alston broke the Brighton drought with a pair of foul shots. Then the Cardinals’ defense took over forcing Hardin County turnovers.
Brighton closed out the game with layups from Alston, Gatlin and Johnson respectively.
The victory kept the Cardinals perfect in league play and improved their overall record to 12-7. Gatlin noted despite a good start in District 13-3A, there is much room for improvement for his team.
“Film session and make sure our practices are focused on things we did wrong,” he said. “As long as we execute, it doesn’t matter if the other team knows what we’re going to do. Execution is what it’s all about.
“Regardless if they know what you’re going to do, you should be able to execute,” Gatlin concluded. “Our focus is going to be what we’re trying to do regardless of what they know about our team.”