By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Missed shots and timely defense ruled the night between the Brighton Cardinals and Munford Cougars.
The District 13-3A and Tipton County showdown Jan. 15 in the Munford Gymnasium was deadlocked at 29-29 late in the fourth quarter. As time was running down, Munford Head Coach Ryan Ross had a few veteran options to come through in the clutch.
Senior point guard Kylan Cunningham came down the court and ran the offense calmly. The ball ended up in the hands of sharpshooter Landon Winters. Winters released a three-pointer that snatched the momentum for the Cougars for good. Add a TJ Tyus layup and the Cougars were 34-29 victors.
“This is a rivalry game,” Ross said. “Especially Brighton has been very good the past few years. I preached to our team they are going to be good this year. Rivalry games are funny.
“I think our guys showed some grit there in the fourth quarter,” he continued. “Things weren’t going well for us offensively. We missed a 100 layups. But I thought our guys kept fighting. That’s what got it done. We got some big stops. We got out in transition and got it done. I’m proud of them.”
Munford needed the bounce back win after dropping its district opener the previous week against the Dyer County Choctaws 51-48. The Cougars saw a lead evaporate at Dyer County.
“The biggest key from that game was it woke us up in practice,” Ross noted. “We hit a little low there in practices where we weren’t practicing as hard as we could. Since that Dyer County game, we’ve had laser focus in practice.
“Guys are beginning to understand more that you’ve got to compete every second of every game,” he continued. “It’s a group that hadn’t won a lot in the past and still learning how to win. We’re getting closer and closer everyday.”
Victory against rival Brighton started off slow with the Cardinals holding a 9-8 lead after the first quarter. Munford outscored Brighton 10-8 in the second quarter to grab an 18-17 advantage at the break.
The Cardinals won the third quarter 7-3 with Martez Logan and Anthony Smith making a bucket each. And DeMaryo Gatlin added a three-pointer to give the Cardinals a 24-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Brighton’s advantage grew to 26-21 in the fourth quarter after a Jordan Dowell basket. The Cougar comeback started with a Tyus triple to make the tally 26-24. Winters gave Munford a temporary lead at 27-26 with a triple.
Dowell tied the game at 27-27 with a free throw. Cunningham recapture the lead for Munford with a basket. Smith deadlocked the game at 29-29.
That set the table for Winters’ clutch three-pointer. Then Tyus added the insurance too earn the victory for Munford.
Ross noted his seniors stepped up with several clutch plays with Kyree Cunningham and James Farrow playing tough defense down the stretch on the Cardinals.
“I hope our seniors learned they can beat anybody at any moment at anytime,” he concluded