Howard basketball coach Walter McGary said recently that after Christmas break his Hustlin' Tigers did some soul searching about their defensive identity.
If they were previously lost, they found themselves Friday night against Brainerd.
The Hustlin' Tigers blew open a close game with a 10-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. They went on to win 63-49 and seize control of District 6-AA.
Brandon Walters had a monster game with 21 points and 18 rebounds, but it was his ability to stay out of foul trouble and on the court that proved to be the difference. Guard play also was key for Howard, as Shailique Cameron contributed 18 points and three assists while Antonio Smith, Chris Walton and Cudjoe Young locked up the perimeter, allowing only five baskets in the final 10:39 and none in a six-minute span after a Jay Besley jump shot made it 38-37 in the third quarter.
During the run, Howard (10-3, 6-1) switched from its zone defense to a half-court man-to-man.
"We didn't want to get Brandon in foul trouble," Cameron said. "We were focused -- not playing for the crowd -- and were able to get more into the game.
"There's no better feeling than a team having to go man against us. They can't guard us man-to-man."
Until that point, the teams had played fairly evenly. Howard jumped out to a double-digit advantage early in the second quarter, but Brainerd responded with a 12-2 surge, taking a two-point edge into the locker room when Orlando Smith scored on a putback.
"We got there by the team," McGary said. "We worked on our defense during the Christmas tournament we were in at White County, and we've started to come together and we've decided to look out for each other.
"It showed a bit tonight. We're not there yet, but we're getting there."
Marques Tipton scored 13 points for Brainerd (5-7, 4-2) but was scoreless in the second half. Moore finished with 12.
"We play scared," Brainerd coach Robert High said. "Howard plays man; we expected them to play man. I don't know. I just don't understand it."