By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In his decorated coaching career, Stan Gatlin has seen All-State, All-Region and college level players graduate from his programs.
Some of the names were LaTesa McLaughlin, Jasmine Newsome and Tra Cooper. Added to the list from 2017-18 are the trio of Aaron Alston, Zach Lewis and Tae’lyr Gatlin.
Now Brighton and Coach Gatlin are moving forward. When Gatlin marched along in previous years, his winning foundation was defense. The 2018-19 Brighton Cardinals are trying to make defense their calling card as they start life without their “Big Three.”
Entering last Friday’s contest against the Millington Trojans in the William Osteen Gymnasium, Brighton limited the Trojans to 10 points by halftime. The Cardinals’ 30-10 advantage was enough for Brighton to leave Flag City 62-48 victors.
“First half we worked really hard and got stops,” Gatlin noted. “In the second half, I wasn’t too pleased with that. We got out of our minds. I thought we got a little too comfortable. Right now we don’t seem to like prosperity. We do dumb stuff during crunch time. We did step up and cut their runs off. But we can’t give up that many points in the second half.”
In the first 16 minutes of the game, Brighton dominated defensively holding the Trojans to a Taveon Collier put back and a Hunter Klutts foul shot and basket in the first quarter.
Meanwhile the Cardinals tabulated 14 points with buckets from DJ Beard, Curtavious Holmes, DeMaryo Gatlin and Jordan Dowell.
Millington could only score 5 points in the second quarter. The Cardinals were sparked by forward Anthony Smith with 6 points in the first minutes of the period to jump ahead 20 points by the break.
The Trojans outscored Brighton 20-14 in the third quarter to stay within shouting distance. Millington outscored Brighton 10-4 in the opening moments of the fourth quarter to make the tally 48-40.
Smith ended Millington early run with a layup to make the score 50-40.
With less than 3 minutes remaining in the game, Millington used a Collier bucket to once again cut the deficit to under 10 points.
TJ Rivers hit a timely three-pointer to make the score 57-45 in favor of Brighton and snatch the momentum away from the Trojans.
Gatlin was happy to see his players step up in crunch time and improve their overall record to 3-1 with the Millington victory.
“I told them from the summer, we have to play differently,” he said. “We’ve got to hang our hat on defense and share the ball. Right now it is a transition. It’s a process but I’m liking what I am seeing.
“I told the guys, ‘I want to win every game. But us getting better is more important in every game,’” Gatlin concluded. “If we can do that, about the time district rolls around, we can hold our own.”