It was easy for Briarcrest Saints Head Coach John Harrington to motivate his team heading into the Jan. 8 match up against the Millington Trojans.
The veteran coach walked into the William Osteen Gymnasium wanting to avenge a pair of losses to the Trojans from last season. And behind the inside play of University of Memphis signee Austin Nichols, the Saints achieved a measure of revenge against Millington with a 56-38 victory.
“That team is really good,” Harrington said of the Trojans. “We loss in the State championship last year and they beat us twice. We loss eight seniors. So my team has really improved. We’re young besides one player. We’re very pleased with how our kids are playing now. They’re playing together and playing hard.”
The Saints had to play hard early falling behind 7-2. The brother combination of El Paso and Roddarius Johnson paced the Trojans. Big brother El Paso opened the contest with a three-pointer. Moments later Roddarius connected on a layup that made the score 7-2.
Briarcrest started it’s comeback finding Nichols in the post. The 6-foot-9-inch center elevated for a slam over a pair of Trojans making the score 9-6 in favor of Millington.
Millington managed to stay ahead in the first quarter with El Paso hitting a jumper and Roddarius making another layup that made the score 13-10. The Trojans were ahead 13-12 after one period.
Briarcrest took it’s first lead at 14-13 in the second quarter. Then Millington guard Jerick Newsome hit an aerobatic layup to regain the lead for Millington.
The Trojans were still ahead 20-16 when Roddarius drained a triple. With the score 20-18, Nichols gave the Saints the lead for good with a three-point play.
Before the half, Nichols got free on a fast break for a two-hand slam making the halftime score 25-20. The senior standout had 11 points at the break.
In the third quarter Nichols made a statement with a powerful one-hand slam from the low block. That sparked a 10-5 Saints run to make the score 35-25. After Trojan forward Kendrick Carter made a bucket Briarcrest continued it’s rally with 8 more points to make the score 43-27 after three quarters.
Trojan guard Willie Mudbone tried to spark his club with 6 points including a three-pointer. But that was only good enough to make the score 43-33.
The Saints settled down and outscored Millington 13-5 down the stretch to win the game.
Harrington and his team left Flag City with a win and momentum heading into league play.
Harrington said his squad might have the formula to get back to the State championship game.
“We have a good player,” he noted. “If we just take care of the ball, defend, make some shots, we’ve got a chance.”
Harrington said facing Millington’s athleticism was a good team for his team and will help reinforce the lesson he’s been preaching to his players.
“If you play as a team, because last year’s team might have had more talent,” he said. “But this year’s team plays more as a team. They’re pretty tough. They take care of the ball.
“Look at the Lakers right now,” Harrington concluded. “Everybody thought they were going to win it all. But it’s not who has the best players. It’s about what players play the best together.”