By Malen Blackmon
The Brookhaven College Bears capped off their final conference game before the NJCAA Regional tournament Feb. 16 with a 103-83 loss against the Mountain View College Lions. Brookhaven finished its season with an overall record of 14-15, and 4-6 in conference play.
The Bears jumped on the Lions early. They started the game fast and went on an 18-4 run before Mountain View head coach LeRoi Phillips Jr. called his second timeout. Even after the break, Brookhaven maintained control of the lead for the first eight minutes of the game before it slipped from their paws.
The Lions were forced to call their third timeout of the half when Mountain View guard Erik Talton was trapped in front of the Lions’ bench. This was the break Mountain View needed. The Lions set up a full-court press defense that dumbfounded the Bears. “When we played our tempo, the game changed,” Phillips said.
At 25-17, Brookhaven guard Thuyler Hardy was stuck in the Bears’ backcourt. After a quick tussle, the ball bounced off a Mountain View player’s leg, allowing the Bears to keep possession. Chris McGill, Brookhaven head coach, took advantage of the lucky bounce to call a timeout of his own to settle the team.
During a few scoreless minutes for the Bears, Talton drove the Lions’ run to reclaim the lead. He knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Lions within a basket. Talton said he credited his hot shooting night to spending extra time in the gym.
After the Bears missed a layup, Mountain View knocked down another 3-pointer to go ahead by 1 point, taking the lead for the first time.
Mountain View’s defensive pressure got to the Bears as they struggled to get into an offensive groove. After a late closeout, Mountain View guard Antwonne Wright knocked in a corner 3 in front of the Bears’ bench, giving the Lions a 33-29 lead.
On the next Mountain View possession, Lions Logan Blow tossed in another 3-pointer. Mountain View was up 38-29, with three minutes left in the half. The Bears needed a last minute push to keep the game close.
With 2:39 left on the clock, Bears guard Kaland Johnson hit the floor wincing in pain holding his ankle with both hands. He was helped off the court by a teammate and trainer. When play resumed, the Bears’ struggle continued. After a couple of exchanged buckets, Brookhaven mixed in a few more turnovers as well.
They recorded a costly one with 18 seconds left in the half, and Mountain View capitalized. The Lions led at the half 47-35.
Mountain View scored first to start the second half, but after creating a turnover, the Bears cut the Lions lead down to 10.
On the next possession, things started to get chippy. Trash talk by both teams and aggressive bump-and-run-style defense raised the intensity of the game as the two teams battled for playoff seeding. Brookhaven guard Deamontae Hughes and Mountain View’s Blow tangled up on an out-of-bounds play and were separated by the referee.
Phillips called a timeout to remind his team to stay poised and maintain control. He took the opportunity to set up an out-of-bounds play under the basket and bring Talton back into the game. The Lions got a good look on the play, but missed the shot.
After grabbing their own offensive rebound, they kicked the ball out to Talton, who knocked down another 3.
As shots kept falling for the Lions, their lead steadily increased. McGill tried to instill some fight in the Bears during various timeouts in the second half, but they could not flip the switch. Talton led all scorers with 27 points. Hughes, who was 3-4 from behind the arc, had 22 points for the Bears.
The Bears tipped off their first round playoff game three days later in a 80-76 loss against North Lake College. The Bears were down by 2 points with less than 10 seconds on the clock, but could not muster a bucket to tie or take the lead. North Lake scored again with 2.9 seconds left, which put the game out of reach.
The playoff loss was the last game for the Bears.
Hardy said: “It’s really just the little things we need to work on mentally. I plan on working on my game to hopefully become a leader for [the team] next season.”