By Thomas Sellers Jr.
What the Brighton Lady Cardinals are experiencing at the beginning of the 2018-19 season is new to the program and their third-year Head Coach David Wampler.
Brighton entered Friday night’s contest against the Millington Lady Trojans in the William Osteen Gymnasium with a 4-0 record. Trying to adjust to winning in a dominant fashion, Wampler took advantage of a resource visiting town prior to tipoff.
Longtime Walters State Senators Head Coach Dave Kragel brought his college team to town and his veteran knowledge of the game to Tipton County for a moment.
“I’ve had a hard time this year because we’ve been playing so well,” Wampler acknowledged. “We’ve had some big leads that I’ve had to let a lot of them play. I met with Walters State coach today. He’s going for 1,000 wins this year. I think he’s got about 11 or 12 National championships.
“I’ve never been in this situation before to where we’re blowing people out,” he continued. “I said, ‘Hey Coach, my starters are not getting enough minutes. What do I do Coach?’ He said, ‘If you want it to pay off in the postseason, you’ve got to do what you do. And you’ve got to keep them playing the whole game.’”
Wampler took Kragel’s advice and guided his Lady Cardinals to a 87-19 victory over the Millington Lady Trojans.
Kragel, who is entering his 42nd year as head basketball coach of the Lady Senators, was inducted into the National Community College Coaches Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
On the court, Kragel has established a winning tradition with more than 960 victories, 15 eastern Division Championships, 18 State Championships, 15 Region VII Championships and 9 TCCAA Conference Championships.
Wampler and the Lady Cardinals are chasing championship No. 1. Friday night indicates Brighton is heading in the right direction jumping ahead 30-4 after one quarter. Millington received baskets from Micaiah Halliburton and Jamiya Turner.
Meanwhile the Lady Cardinals spread the worth with players like Sylvia “Bug” Jones, T. Brown, Albanie Dunn, DeMiyah Gatlin and MG Smith all contributing to the 30 points.
Each player in the quintet is averaging double figures after the Millington game. Brighton carried a 48-16 advantage into the locker room after Cor’tayza Flowers caught fire with 6 points in the second quarter.
The Lady Trojans’ offensive output picked up with Alexis Jordan and JonTavia Bonner making buckets.
Coming out the locker room Wampler faced a decision whether to take Kragel’s advice. In the previous contest the Lady Cardinals were ahead 56-8, but got outscored 31-15.
“We pressed for a long time and then came out in the second half and set back in our half court (defense),” Wampler said. “I kept playing all 10 girls, rotating them. I think the girls trust each other because they’ve been playing with each other for a long time. They trust the system.”
Brighton outscored Millington 27-3 in the third period to put the game out of reach. The Lady Cardinal guards used pressure defense in the half court set to create steals and fast break chances. Dunn draining a triple at the end of the period made the score 75-19.
“We’ve got five starters who have been with me for my whole three years,” Wampler said. “They’ve been through the first year at 9-18. Last year we were 14-10. We thought we were feeling good about ourselves. Then the immaturity got to us and we fell off and loss the last 8 games. I think this year they’ve learned from that.”
Wampler said the 2017-18 collapse motivates his girls to stay focus and fight for a lasting legacy like Coach Kragel. Brighton’s level of competition will increase throughout the month of December visiting the William Osteen Christmas Tournament in Millington and the Dragon Fire Tournament in Collierville.
“The biggest thing for us is not to get too cocky or too arrogant,” Wampler concluded. “We’ve had to keep pushing, stay in shape and hopefully not get injured. Then maybe we can do some things that have never been done at Brighton.”