Brainerd's Panthers were sitting on an 11-point halftime lead in Tuesday's District 6-AA basketball game against East Hamilton when assistant coach Levar Brown reminded them they were ahead of the Hurricanes at home last season, only to lose the game.
But an overwhelming third quarter by the Panthers this time prevented anything like that happening again, and host Brainerd defeated East Hamilton 59-36.
Sparked by 12 of Marques Tipton's game-high 20 points, the Panthers outscored the Hurricanes 20-5 in the third period. After short jumpers by Demetri Otis and Tipton to start the fourth-quarter scoring, Brainerd had its largest lead at 53-23.
"I told them in the locker room, 'When we go back out for the second half, we need to keep up the intensity on defense,'" Brainerd coach Robert High said. "'If we do that, we'll be fine. We've got to play the other 16 minutes.'"
Brainerd (5-4, 3-1) got off to a 13-2 start and led 27-8. High said the defensive effort began with point guard Jay Besley pressuring the ball at midcourt and ended with a collapsing defense underneath when the Hurricanes pulled offensive rebounds.
The Panthers trapped often out of their zone defense, aware they could be exposed with some adept long-range shooting.
"We knew they could shoot," High said. "We just didn't think they could make as many as they'd miss."
East Hamilton coach Michael Stone said his team came in averaging nine 3-point goals per game.
"We had four guys make one apiece," Stone said, "and I bet that was on something like 4-for-20 or so. I was disappointed in our confidence level tonight. We looked like a young program, but we're not."
The Hurricanes outscored Brainerd 10-2 over the final 3:05 of the first half, but no momentum seemed to carry over.
"That late run to end the half was when my five subs came in," Stone said. "A lot of them haven't even played varsity before. Their effort was phenomenal. This wasn't a game-plan issue. This was an effort and attitude issue."
Orlando Moore totaled 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Panthers. Besley dished seven assists while directing an offense that had a season-low seven turnovers, and he and Dimitric Glenn scored nine points each.
Cody Knox topped East Hamilton (4-3, 1-1) with 10 points, and Kenny Bunton added nine.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.