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Brookhaven Lady Panthers win to start the basketball season

The Lady Panthers notched their first victory of the 2017-18 basketball season Saturday, using their fast-ball game plan to outrun and overpower the Mendenhall Tigers by a score of 50-32.

The Brookhaven girls threw up a smothering defense and made fast attacks on the basket to jump out to an early lead before slowing the game in the third quarter and feeding the ball down low to junior center Tamia Stallings, who dominated the painted wood with easy, short-range shots. The combination of early speed and late-game control wore the Tigers out and Brookhaven pulled away in the third quarter before coasting to the win in the fourth.

“When they got the ball in to me I did what I had to do,” said Stallings, who scored eight of her 20 points in the Lady Panthers’ big third quarter.

Sophomore guard Ayanna Mcnairy piled on four of her 10 points in the third, and sophomore Silentianna Collins hit from behind the three-point line. Sophomore Akira Brown and freshman Ashanti Louis recorded a bucket each to round out the Lady Panther’s 19-point third quarter.

After that, the fourth quarter was all walk-ups and hard defense, as the Lady Panthers added 10 more points and kept the Tigers from gaining any of the momentum they would need to attempt a comeback.

Brookhaven’s will-breaking performance late in the game was made possible by a fast start. The Lady Panthers scored 11 points in the first quarter, most of which came in the game’s first few minutes. The sudden outpouring of offense knocked the Tigers off their game and forced an early timeout that got the Mendenhall girls a tongue-lashing from their coach so severe more than one pair of eyebrows were raised around the gymnasium at Jefferson County High School, which hosted games all day.

Despite the less-than-stellar pep talk from coach Benjamin Johnson, the Lady Tigers never led in the game.

“We played a good game. We were patient against their traps and we showed patience down the stretch,” said Brookhaven coach Preston Wilson. “This week we’ll work on our half-court defense and clean up our free throws.”

Free throws were an area of concern for the Lady Panthers, along with fouls. Brookhaven hit only four of 22 free throws during the game for a measly 18 percent, and a few Panthers got into foul trouble early when their aggressive defense was a little too aggressive.

But on the whole, the game plan was effective, girls off the bench contributed with speedy play and greedy defense and now the Lady Panthers know more about themselves.

“We’ll have a good season,” Stallings said. “We should win all our games — if we stay focused.”