After a close first half, the Brookhaven College men’s basketball team pulled away in the second half to beat the El Centro College Chaparrals 79-61 Nov. 24.
El Centro started strong and controlled the pace most of the first half. Brookhaven found it hard to penetrate their 2-1-2 zone defense for the first 15 minutes of the game. El Centro’s guards Steven McDonald and Sean Madden kept Brookhaven’s defense off-balance for most of the first half.
The Chaparrals had a lead of 7 points at 15-22 near the middle of the first half until Brookhaven scored three baskets in a row. The last of the three came from the relentless hustle of Brookhaven’s center, Chisom Obineke, after he rebounded his own missed shot twice before finally scoring, cutting the lead to 1 point at 21-22.
With around five minutes left in the first half, the Bears’ Jordan Enloe received an out-of-bounds pass at the top of the key before blowing past an El Centro defender with a hesitation drive-by. As he met the second line of defense, he leapt toward the basket and dodged an attempted block before spinning it off the glass and in for 2 points.
On the next possession, with 4:30 remaining in the first half, an El Centro pass was deflected off the backboard before ricocheting off three Brookhaven players. Jeremy Ford corralled the ball and quickly pushed it up the court to Cameron Kocik, who layed it up and in, giving Brookhaven its first lead since the 15-minute mark of the game at 27-26.
After the Chaparrals took the lead back by 3 points, Brookhaven’s Keilyn Nance received a pass on the left side of the court with one minute left in the half. Nance pump faked and drove to the basket, laying the ball up for 2 points. Twenty seconds later, Brandon McClure received an outlet pass and drove coast to coast, putting up a floater that rattled in, giving Brookhaven the lead going into halftime at 33-32.
After Brookhaven head coach Kevin Hurst made a few adjustments on how to attack El Centro’s zone defense during halftime, the Bears came out with a bang. Obineke received the ball at the top of the key and surveyed the floor before whipping a pass to the basket, cutting Michael Witherspoon. He quickly laid it in for the score, helping Brookhaven jump out to a 5-point lead.
Three minutes later, McClure got the ball and threw a full-court pass to Nance. He jumped up to catch the ball and as his feet touched the ground, he threw a two-handed bounce pass to the trailing Obineke, who went straight up for the two-handed slam dunk. Fans in The Bears’ Den erupted with excitement and the momentum was fully on the Bears’ side from then on.
The next six minutes of the second half were spent trading baskets between the Chaparrals and the Bears as Brookhaven kept their lead around 5 points.
After making one of his two free throws, Brady Chamberlain stole the ball from an El Centro player on the next possession and dribbled the entire length of the court as everyone on both teams trailed him. A Chaparral defender finally caught up to him, but Chamberlain shielded him off with his body and laid the ball up with his left hand, increasing the Brookhaven lead to 9 at 53-44 with 8:30 remaining in the game.
Minutes later, with 4:57 on the clock, Ford broke a full-court press and dished off to teammate Cody Little, who finished with a two-handed slam dunk, completing an 8-0 run within a minute and six seconds. The dunk removed any hope of an El Centro comeback. Brookhaven went on to win the game 79-61.
As the game wore on, the Chaparrals could not keep up with the fast-paced style of play Hurst likes his team to run. The deep bench Hurst uses was a key factor in the win, as the Chaparrals stamina was not up to par that night.
“I trust all 11 guys to play,” Hurst said. “I put my guys through an unbelievable conditioning program and that pays off dividends. My guys are a lot less tired at the end.”
The Bears got off to a slow start on the offensive end, but their defense was on point from the beginning of the game as they held El Centro to just over 30 points in both halves.
“That was by far some of the best defense we’ve played all season,” Hurst said.
Little finished 6-8 from the field with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Little also kept the momentum on Brookhaven’s side most of the second half by making six of his seven free throw attempts, according to njcaa.org. Nance and Witherspoon each almost tallied double-doubles on the night as both scored 10 points, with Nance finishing with nine rebounds and Witherspoon with eight. Nance also chipped in with five assists and two steals, playing a thorough, well-rounded game. Obineke finished the night with 14 points, and while Ford only had 3 points, he finished with three steals and six assists, as he and McClure did a great job of breaking El Centro’s press all night.