In the first quarter, the Lady Blue Devils (16-5) outscored MZ, 22-5, and that was enough to make the difference. Even though the first eight minutes carried her team, Kathy Matthews wants to get a little greedy down the final stretch of the regular season.
“I told them in there I was being a little stingy, I want to have four quarters like that. Night-in and night-out, I know that’s asking a lot, to have four good quarters out there, will let me rest a little easier. To start off with that, it helps a lot to get a little momentum on our side,” the Bremen coach said.
For the Lady Eagles (10-10), it was a lack of defense in that first quarter that cost them. The rest of the game MZ outscored Bremen, 36-35, but the damage was already done and the gap was never closed.
“We weren’t playing defense. I told our girls I don’t know what our problem is, but we stood there. We talked about the [Jordan] Hill girl, that we couldn’t let her shoot. Then we stood and watched her shoot. We played no defense. Came out the second half played good defense for the first three minutes to kind of get back in the ball game — cut it to 11 — then stand around and watch [Hill] shoot two more times,” MZ coach Bill Bailey said. “It’s frustrating. Until we start playing defense again, it’s going to be tough.”
The offense did get going for the Lady Eagles and kept them in the game. Alexis Jordan and Jordan Crews reached double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively, while Quavadis Kirk added eight points. Jordan and Kirk led the team with six rebounds apiece.
The bulk of Bremen’s damage was done by Hill, as she worked from beyond the 3-point line to score a game-high 25 points with 7-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc. Jamia Johnson added 11 points and six rebounds, while Kayla Chapman had eight points. Kalia Johnson led the team with nine rebounds.
With the lead, Matthews was able to get time out of some of her bench players that don’t see much court time.
“They work hard and deserve some playing time, as well. Of course, it helps with some depth, you never know when we might need folks down the road with foul trouble or things like that. It does help,” Matthews said.
The focus now shifts to Christian Heritage for MZ, a team it beat 58-35 in their first meeting. This time the Lady Eagles will travel up to Dalton on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. tip-off.
“Come back Monday and we’ve got a huge game against Christian Heritage. That’s pretty much [a must-win] if we want to stay in the hunt for a fourth spot. That’s the best we can get. If we can finish four, that puts us opposite our No. 1 and we would much rather play the No. 1 on the other side if we can get by five. That’s our goal. We’ve got four games left. We need to win at least three out of these next four to stay in the hunt,” Bailey said.
This week provides a little down time for the Lady Blue Devils, who won’t play until traveling to Jordan next Saturday. That gives the team a chance to regroup, refocus and rest before the final push of the regular season.
“We’re going to hopefully get a little rest and our legs back under us. I told our girls we want to try to win out. Looks like we can’t finish any higher than second — looks like Kendrick will finish first — and we want to win out so we can get second,” Matthews said. “We’ll come in and prepare for Jordan on Saturday and then that next week when we play Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.”
Bremen boys 54, Mt. Zion 37: Billy Pollard preaches effort, and on Saturday night that’s what the Blue Devil coach got, as his squad was able to put Mt. Zion away by double digits.
Every time the Eagles (8-12) started to make a push, Bremen had an answer. Coming off a tough, one-point loss against Chattahoochee County on Friday night, the Blue Devils were able to bounce back.
“That’s Bremen basketball effort right there. They got after it. If a ball was on the ground, they went after it,” Pollard said. “The effort was great and the defensive effort was great. They found where their shooters were and made the other players make good shots to beat us and they missed their shots.”
The offense just wasn’t there for the Eagles, as they shot just 16-of-58 (28 percent) from the floor, were only 1-of-7 from the free-throw line and committed 19 turnovers. When the offense isn’t clicking, it is hard to win.
“It’s hard to score 37 points and win a basketball game. It’s the same as the last time we played them. Nothing was dropping [Saturday]. We probably shot around 20 percent from the field. That was a tough one,” MZ coach Joey Marinelli said.
Trent McClure was the catalyst for the Blue Devil offense, especially in the third quarter, finishing with 18 points on the night. With MZ battling back from a nine-point halftime deficit to make it a two-point game, the junior guard knocked down three straight 3-pointers to push the lead up to double digits. Nick Forrister followed up with 17 points, as Josh Johnson also reached double figures with 10.
“[McClure’s] a weapon — you better guard No. 3. He is a leader and he gets us going. Without him, I don’t know where we’d be,” Pollard said. “He is a winner. He hates losing and is going to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s making 3-pointers or kicking it out to Forrister, [Taylor Shumake], Johnson or whoever. He’s the ultimate team player.”
The Eagles were led by Nathan Bernhardt’s 11-point, 15-rebound double-double, while Matt Turner led in scoring with 13 points.
This Tuesday will be a bit of a revenge match, as MZ will travel to face a Christian Heritage team that pulled out a 56-52 win in the first meeting between the two.
“Christian Heritage, I thought, took one from us at our place. It’s a long ride up there. Hopefully, our guys can stomach the ride and play a better game than we played [Saturday]. Hopefully, our offensive approach will be a little better. It would be big to go up there and start to close out our region schedule with a win,” Marinelli said.
For the Blue Devils (8-12), this week provides some off time to prepare for one of the top teams in the state with a Saturday trip to Jordan.
“Heal up a little bit. We’re going to get after it Monday and Tuesday, but be off Wednesday, get after it Thursday and do a run-through on Friday,” Pollard said. “You try to make it fun, you try to make it competitive. We do a lot of situational stuff. Everything we do is competitive to try to keep that edge.”