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T is for Terrific: Brown’s clutch play helps Lady Cardinals upset Munford

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Brighton junior guard T. Brown elevates to the basket for shot over a pair of Lady Cougars during last week's game.

Brighton junior guard T. Brown elevates to the basket for shot over a pair of Lady Cougars during last week’s game.

The Brighton Lady Cardinal Basketball program has taken on the personality of their Head Coach David Wampler the last two years.
In his debut season, 2016-17, Wampler was the architect of the Lady Cardinals’ upset of the then defending District 13-3A champions Dyer County Lady Choctaws.
On Jan. 30, Brighton had another opportunity to pull off the trick of being the previous season’s league champions when the Munford Lady Cougars arrived to the Brighton Gymnasium. It had been years since the Lady Cardinals beat their rival Munford on the hardwood.
Behind clutch plays from Haley Simpson, Felia Fayne and T. Brown, the Lady Cardinals were able to pull off the upset of Munford 45-43 in overtime.
“When I got here, I think Dyer County and Munford had beaten us by 30 points a game,” Wampler said. “We knocked them off last year — Dyer County. We had two or three point games with them two times. But Munford put it on us. That’s a big rivalry game and now we’ve beat them.
“Our girls are starting to figure it out,” he added. “I’m proud of one thing night mostly, this is the first time we ran a game plan to the tee. The only thing we could have done better was made a few more free throws.”
Free throws might have prevented overtime between the Lady Cougars and Lady Cardinals. There were plenty of fouls called with Munford’s Deja Potter and Aliyah Lee fouling out in the second half.
The post duo was needed for the entire 32 minutes of regulation with the game deadlock at 12-12 after two quarters Munford was ahead 23-22 entering the fourth quarter.
The contest remained tight throughout the final quarter of regulation with Maiya Reed putting the Lady Cougars ahead 30-29 with a foul shot.
Fayne gave the Lady Cardinals the advantage again with a pair of free throws. Behind senior standout Gabby Crawford the Lady Cougars outscored Brighton 10-5 to take a 40-36 lead.
Crawford scored 15 points in the period scoring most points from the charity stripe. She went 8 for 8 from the line giving the Lady Cougars a 4-point advantage with less than a minute remaining.
Running out of time the Lady Cardinals got a clutch shot from Brown hitting a shot in the lane to cut the deficit in half.
Brighton had to foul and Munford forced their selection by getting the ball to Crawford. Both attempts missed the mark and the Lady Cardinals grabbed the rebound.
Onyx Mango raced the ball up the floor. She located Simpson near the three-point line. Simpson gave a quick shot fake and fired a pass to a wide open Fayne in the lane. The freshman elevated to the rim for the layup as time ticked away.
It was time for overtime with deadlocked at 40-40.
Mary Richardson gave the Lady Cougars a 41-40 advantage with a free throw. Then it was time for Brown to take over the game.
“T had a good year for us last year as a sophomore,” Wampler recalled. “She had a terrible summer — just terrible. We played about 30 games. Halfway through the summer I ended up putting her on the bench. I sat beside her every game and asked her, ‘How’s the view?’ And she said, ‘What do you mean Coach?’ I said, ‘You’re not going in because you stink. When you start playing basketball I’ll put you in.’
“She came back in July with a totally different attitude,” he continued. “She’s gone to work everyday. She’s the first one in sprints. She stays after that. Last week we went to shooting practice and she shot for 2 hours sweating like crazy. She can hit the knock down shot.”
That work paid off then Brown hit a runner in the lane to make the score 42-41. Moments later Brown went 1 of 2 from the line to make the tally 43-41.
Needing a bucket, the Lady Cougars got the ball to Crawford. The senior stepped up and drilled a deep two-pointer to even up the game at 43-43.
Trying to pressure the ball, a pair of Munford defenders fouled Brown in the backcourt. Brown had the final clutch moment of the night nailing both free-throw attempts.
“It feels good because nobody thought we could do it,” Brown said. “But all we did was fight.
“At first coming from middle school to high school, it was hard at first,” she added. “I just got used to it. I had to stay in and practice hard. But it was overwhelming at first. For the team I hope it shows us if we stay together and fight together we can do anything.”
Wampler said the rivalry, league win was huge for his players and program. He noted the defense of Mango on Crawford earlier to the solid execution of the game plan with players like Kailey Hunt and Albanie Dunn.
Most importantly the victory kept the Lady Cardinals in position to avoid the fourth/fifth place game when the District 13-3A Tournament begins.
“We’ve got to stay out of that play-in game,” Wampler concluded. “That’s all I’ve been preaching. Last year we finished third with 2 wins. You can’t finish third this year with just 2 wins. You’ve got to stay out of the play-in game to have a better seed for the Region.”

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