By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The reason for the sadness and disappointment was Bartlett. The Panthers came to town and ended the Cardinals’ 2016 season 57-55 in overtime.
Regional Saturday night 2017 presented Stan Gatlin’s Cardinals a chance for some revenge in a rematch with the Bartlett Panthers. Last year Brighton shot 45 percent from the free-throw line leading to its doom.
Tonight the Cardinals hit 73 percent from the foul line helping them end Bartlett’s season 77-68.
“It feels amazing,” Gatlin said. “We played them back in December and they beat us by 21. That’s my thing, I don’t typically like to show too much when we play a team in the regular season. It gives us an opportunity to make adjustments based on what they’re showing. For the most part we did a good job.
“That is one of the most difficult teams to prepare for because they got so many guys you have to guard who can shoot the ball,” he added. “So you just can’t key in on one or two people. You have to guard them honestly.”
Brighton’s Match-up Zone neutralized the Panthers enough to help the Cardinals advance to the Regional Semifinals to take on the Bolton Wildcats Tuesday night in Brighton Gymnasium. The Cardinals are the host for the entire Region 7-3A Boys and Girls Tournaments this week.
Brighton took the next step jumping out 20-14 after one quarter. The Cardinals scored 15 points in the second quarter starting with a pair of layups from Ethan Bell.
Other Cardinals to contribute to the 35-25 halftime led were Alex Malone, Aaron Alston, Zach Lewis and Taelyr Gatlin.
The Panthers were outscored 15-14 in the third quarter. The Cardinals were ahead 42-29 after a Bell triple. Brighton went ahead 48-35 in the third period when Malone tossed an alley-oop to Alston.
The junior forward snatch the pass above the rim and threw it through the rim with a two-hand power slam. The Cardinals led 50-39 entering the fourth quarter.
The Panthers fought back in the final period launching three-pointers. Bartlett cut the deficit to 70-65 with a minute and 16 seconds remaining.
The Cardinals kept their poise and made 5 of 6 free throws to make the score 75-65. Lewis closed out the night with a layup.
Lewis had 20 points on the night. Gatlin led the way with 23 points, shooting 90 percent from the free-throw line. The District 13-3A MVP added 6 assists.
Alston nearly had a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Malone was busy most of the night guarding Panther guards and scored 9 points. His fellow senior Bell had 14 points in the victory.