By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MEMPHIS — The second round contest between the Cordova Wolves and Brighton Cardinals could have built as a rematch of the 2017 Region 7-3A championship game.
The imaginary marquee outside of the LeMoyne-Owen Gymnasium in Memphis might have read Tae’lyr Gatlin vs. Tyler Harris. Maybe the hype of this November showdown could have simply been centered around two of the best teams in the area striving toward March.
The game featuring quality coaches and players was a seesaw affair with Head Coach Terrance Scales’ Wolves pulling away for a 69-61 victory.
Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin entered the game last Wednesday night not worried about last season, who vs. who. The veteran leader was focused on the direction of his team heading toward the postseason.
“I was hoping to see guys step up and I still feel we could have won the game once we started playing ball like we know how to play,” Gatlin said. “We saw it in flashes and spots. We took the lead in the third quarter after being down. But you’ve got to be able to maintain that consistency throughout the whole game against a team like them. They’re well-coached and have some great players on their team.”
One of Cordova’s great players is senior guard Tyler Harris. The highly recruited prospect Harris dropped 7 of his game-high 43 points in the first quarter. Harris drove to the rack and slammed the ball to make the score 7-6 in favor of Cordova.
The Wolves were ahead 14-11 after one quarter. Cordova jumped ahead 28-14 in the second quarter behind five Harris three-pointers. Harris’ last triple came just across the half-court line.
Brighton’s Curtavious Holmes ended the Cardinals’ drought with a jumper. Then Cardinal Anthony Smith scored back-to-back buckets in the post to make the tally 28-20.
The Wolves held a 32-24 advantage at the break behind Harris’ 21 points in the first 16 minutes.
Gatlin and the Cardinals made adjustments coming out of the locker room. Brighton proceeded with a 9-0 run to regain the lead. University of Denver signee Tae’lyr Gatlin got things rolling with a jumper.
Zach Lewis added a three-pointer before Smith made a pair of put-back buckets giving Brighton a 33-32 lead.
“I challenged Anthony at halftime,” Coach Gatlin said. “He came out and played a whole lot better. I challenged him about his courage. And he showed me that he’s courageous enough to step up and play even though this is his first year ever playing.
“He still has some things he needs to work on obviously, but he showed me a whole lot with 26 points,” he added. “That’s a career high for that kid. That’s something we can build on. I said he’s going to be a talented player and he’s got a lot to learn. He’s handling my constructive criticism. I’m trying to break him down so he can have more mental toughness.”
Smith complimented the Brighton senior duo of Gatlin and Lewis throughout the third period. Lewis drained a three-pointer to deadlock the game at 38-38. Then Gatlin followed with a trey to give the Cardinals a 41-38 advantage.
Harris came to the rescue for Cordova hitting a three-pointer to even the score at 41-41. Harris’ next trip up the court, he exploded to the rim for a layup making the score 43-41 in favor of the Wolves.
Gatlin had a reply stepping behind the arch and hitting a triple to recapture the advantage for Brighton. Moments later Gatlin hit another three-pointer make the tally 47-43.
The third quarter concluded with Harris hitting a pair of foul shots to make the score 47-45.
It was Scales turn to tip things into his team’s favor in the fourth quarter. Cordova jumped out with a 10-4 run to regain control of the game. Harris tallied 13 points in the final quarter to lead his team to a win.
“A guy like that really knows how to shoot the ball,” Coach Gatlin concluded. “He knows how to pace himself and he knows how to take great shots. That’s a guy who has put some some work in the gym. If my guys learn anything tonight, you’ve got to put in some time in the gym.”