By Thomas Sellers Jr.
On paper the most athletic team in District 13-3A girls basketball is Brighton.
So most of the competition has a scouting report to slow down the game and use a patient offense to increase the chances of beating the Lady Cardinals.
The Hardin County Lady Tigers used that game plan to perfection Jan. 18 in Brighton to defeat the Lady Cardinals 37-34. Since that night, Head Coach David Wampler and his Lady Cardinals have been on a mission to adjust and regain the advantage.
On Jan. 25, Brighton bounced back with a 67-53 victory at Liberty. Four nights later the rival Munford Lady Cougars paid a visit to the Brighton Gymnasium with the Lady Cardinals flying away with a 59-31 win.
“We’ve been working on half-court pressure stuff,” Wampler noted. “We’re working on press and tempo, transition to offense. It’s been fast, fast, fast. Not out of control or stupid, just getting down the court as fast as you can, rotate and try to get a shot before they get set.”
Against Munford, Wampler employed his junior guard Sylvia “Bug” Jones to be more aggressive in those half-court sets to open up things for her teammates.
“With Bug if she gets down there and passes it, she gets it back a lot times she’s able to get penetration,” he noted. “The key to us, Albanie has to shoot well. She’s been in a little slump but she’s coming back. We can kick it to DeMiyah. She can re-attack. Tee is there to knock down the three. MG is knocking down the outside shot. And Haley is there to clean up anything. But we’ve got to make shots.”
T. Brown, Albanie Dunn, DeMiyah Gatlin, MG Smith and Haley Simpson all contributed in the scoring column against the Lady Cougars.
Smith drained a three-pointer in the first quarter to make the score 7-2. Jones added a bucket to make the tally 9-2. Munford’s Maiya Reed finally ended the Lady Cougar drought with a layup. Her teammate Mary Richardson hit a basket to make the score 9-6.
Dunn snatched back momentum for Brighton with a three-pointer. The Lady Cardinals led 16-8 after one quarter.
The second quarter began with a Simpson basket in the paint to make the score 18-8. Jones took over offensively in the period with 7 points. Her final bucket of the second quarter made the tally 30-13. The Lady Cardinals were ahead 32-15.
The third quarter gave Brighton a chance to keep Munford at bay with Brown and Jones trading baskets for the Lady Cardinals. Jones hit a basket and triple to make the score 42-18. Then Brown contributed with a pair of foul shots and three-pointer.
After a Reed bucket for Munford, Jones scored on a three-point play to make the score 50-20. Brighton was ahead 51-20 after three quarters.
“We’ve got to force people to play our game,” Wampler said. “We want to score 70 and that’s not fast enough. We really want to get to 90. We want enough shot attempts to get that. To borrow a term from football and racing, we want to be Indy Fast. We’re starting to figure that out.”
The Lady Cougars outscored Brighton 11-8 in the fourth quarter. The Lady Cardinals secured the league win to stay in the running for the championship. Brighton improved to 19-5, 4-1 after the Munford win. The Lady Tigers had a 17-3, 5-1 mark on the morning of January 30.
“We’re getting everybody’s A-game,” Wampler said. “They’re starting to figure it out they have to bring their A-game every night.
“I think the Hardin loss was our wake-up call,” he concluded. “They figure it out. I told them after that loss you need to go home and pray. You need to pray because you need a break right now. We got it last Friday night. Dyer County went to Hardin and beat them. It falls out perfectly. If we take care of our four steps when we go to Savannah, it is winner takes all.”