By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A familiar foe was back in town Friday night.
The Brighton Cardinals welcomed the Dyer County Choctaws into the Brighton Gymnasium for a district showdown. Brighton senior Kejuan Dyson entered the contest on a mission, looking for an unfamiliar outcome against the Choctaws.
“We haven’t beat this team since I’ve been here,” he said. “We haven’t beat them in 3 years. So I came out tonight to show the team and the Coach we can beat them.”
Brighton Head Coach Stan Gatlin proudly stood on the sideline witnessing Dyson drop 23 points in a 61-38 victory over Dyer County. The Cardinals improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Three nights earlier the Cardinals earned a 53-33 victory of the Liberty Crusaders. Gatlin noted his defense has been a work in progress since December.
“They (the Choctaws) can put some points up,” he noted. “They put 80 points up the other day. I put a lot of emphasis after we got back from that three week hiatus working on our Match-Up. I strayed away from it a little bit and moved toward Man-To-Man.
“Which is not a bad thing,” Gatlin continued. “But I am passionate about my Match-Up. I said, ‘Guys we’ve got to do a better job. But first I have to do a better job of making sure I work doing it in practice everyday.’ I hadn’t been doing that.”
The practice paid off with the Cardinals jumping out to a 14-8 lead in the first quarter. Dyer County employed a full-court press to counter the Brighton defensive scheme. Brighton guards like Dyson, DeMaryo Gatlin, Cornelius Bonner and Jay Dancey were able to navigate the pressure to create scoring chances for big man Darrien Lewis.
Lewis scored alongside Ken Henning and Emmanuel Thurman. Thurman drilled a three-pointer putting the Cardinals up 14-8 after 8 minutes.
Dyson tallied 5 points in the first quarter. The senior guard improved his output in the second quarter with 7 points, nailing his second three-pointer of the night. His fellow senior DeMaryo Gatlin scored the final 4 points of the first half to make the score 30-16 in favor of the Cardinals.
Brighton maintained the solid defense and steady offense with Dancey opening up the second half with a basket. After Henning hit a bucket, Dyson canned another three-pointer to make the score 37-20.
“My leadership is important because as a leader they’re following me,” Dyson said. “If I make a mistake, it’s our mistake. So I have to be focused.”
Dyson’s focus helped the Cardinals create some breathing room the rest of the third quarter. His triple was the start of a personal 9-0 run to make the tally 43-20. Brighton was ahead 45-21 entering the final period.
In the fourth quarter the Dyer County outscored Brighton 17-16. The Cardinals kept pace with the Choctaws with a variety of scorers like Henning, Lewis and Bonner. Henning reached double figures with 14 points and Lewis added 8 points. Dyer County’s Ethan Tolbert reached double digits with 17 points.
“We’ve got some dynamic guys,” Gatlin said of his Cardinals. “I’ve been telling these guys all year, ‘I really like this team.’ I loved the team the year we went to Sub-State. But I really, really like this team. They don’t mind sharing the ball. We don’t have those egos or none of the nonsense we had last year.
“It’s a pleasure to coach guys like this,” he concluded. “They’re coachable. They’re kids and they’re going to do crazy stuff, but at the same time I can give them a butt-chewing. ‘Yes Sir, yes Sir.’ And we get back out there doing what we need to do. I really enjoy coaching this team. They adding some more years.”