A Time to Learn: Brighton Youthful Roster Gets Quality Time Together at Christmas Tournament

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By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin knows the importance of participating in holiday tournaments. 

From Millington to Southwind to his current job at Brighton, Gatlin has taken girls and boys teams to elite Christmas-themed showcases finishing near the top or winning the whole event. 

Coming into the 2021 Brighton Christmas Tournament at his home gymnasium, Gatlin had one primary goal for his 2021-22 Cardinals. 

“Like I said before the season started, I have no idea based on us having guys out for the summer because of various reasons,” Gatlin acknowledged. “I had no idea of who we were. So these games we’re playing right now gives us an opportunity to figure out who we are. 

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“We can figure out what we need to adjust, what we do well, where we’re struggling,” he continued. “So our practice plans can mimic things that are going to help us do better down the road.”

Building and tweaking toward January and the district schedule, Day Two of the Brighton Christmas Tournament presented the Cardinals with the challenge of Fayette-Ware. And the Wildcats emerged with a 60-38 victory over Brighton.

The Wildcats were paced by big men JaSteven Walker and Damarien Yates. Fayette-Ware got a boost from the outside shooting of guard Ta’Carion Mitchell. 

After Cardinal guard Nick Moore drained a triple to give Brighton a 7-6 advantage in the first quarter, Mitchell took over the game. 

Mitchell made five straight three-pointers before the conclusion of the first period to make the score 26-12 in favor of Fayette-Ware. 

The Brighton defense neutralized Mitchell in the second quarter and held all the Wildcats to 11 points. Meanwhile the Cardinals managed 9 points in the second period leading to a 37-21 score at the break. 

Fayette-Ware adjusted its game plan in the third quarter and made a point to get the ball inside to the 6’9 Walker. The power forward used an array of shots including dunks to push the Wildcats ahead 52-26 entering the fourth quarter. 

The last quarter belonged to Cardinal guard Terry. The Brighton junior scored all 12 points for his team including a couple of three-pointers. 

“We have two guys emerging as our go-to players,” Gatlin noted. “Nick Moore and Jalen Terry, those two guys really have a bright future. They played together in middle school so they have chemistry.” 

Gatlin said after the games of the Brighton Christmas Tournament wrap up and it’s just the Cardinals, he will use practices and film sessions to overcome the growing pains to build for a district run.

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“For one we learned we have to compete and be physical today,” Gatlin said. “We learned how to take physicality in the game. We have to learn how to do better pass fakes. You’ve got to be just mentally tough when you’re playing a team like that. They are well-coached. He does a great job with his guys. 

“So he kind of knows my system a little bit and he knows what I am going to throw at him,” he concluded. “He did a great job of pressuring my guys. It’s something we definitely needed to see. One of the things we’re struggling with was exposed and we’re going to do our best job of correcting that in practice with our personnel.”

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