By Pat Turner
Brennan took sole possession of first place in District 28-6A this past week by pulling out two tight victories and getting a little outside help.
While Brennan (20-6, 12-1) gained the upper hand over Marshall (12-14, 5-8), 51-48, and Clark (6-20-, 4-9), 79-70, Brandeis provided the gift by knocking O’Connor (20-7, 11-2) out of its share of the league lead with a 62-61 win over the Panthers.
For Brennan, being along at the top is a nice position, but those who made it possible, know there’s other obstacles to climb during the final five games. However, the Bears proved they can handle the pressure during their recent outings.
“We know every game is going to be tough,” said Norman Beckford, who had 16 points and seven rebounds against Marshall and 12 points in the victory over Clark. “We have to be ready and play our best.”
The win over Marshall took some serious work as the Bears were looking at a 39-36 deficit going into the fourth period.
Marshall got much of its power from Tyler Gertson, who chipped in six 3-point goals, three coming in the third period.
The Bears revved up the defense in the fourth period, holding the Rams to nine points. Much of that success from the rebounding of Beckford, Kyle Castille, who added 11 points with six rebounds, and Noah Williams.
Beckford played a huge role during that spurt. He scored on a follow shot and added two free throws off a steal, before getting a layup for a 44-41 lead.
Following two freebies by Jordan Mainor the Bears upped their advantage to 46-41.
Marshall made a serious bid for a comeback, but free throws by Shaydon Campbell and Jacari Sanders, who finished with 11 points, secured the win.
“Our mindset in the fourth quarter was to keep the ball away,” Beckford said. “I feel like as a team we did that. We knew we had to pick it up. I was trying to help by getting rebounds and passing the ball up the court, scoring on layups and jump shots, anything I could to help.”
Brennan was equally efficient against Clark.
The Cougars had bright moments with Luke Gibson knocking in 21 points and attacking the boards, and Cooper Vanlandingham (18 points) hitting from the outside.
Brennan had too much power. Using a 22-point burst behind the shooting of Campbell, who led the way with 20 points, Sanders (18 points) and Beckford, the Bears surged to a 35-23 halftime lead before extending the margin to 58-40 in the third period.
Clark erupted for 30 points in the fourth quarter, but the deficit and more timely shooting from Brennan was too much to overcome.
Brandeis had a productive week.
In addition to the win over O’Connor and a 64-55 victory over Holmes, the Broncos also received a helping hand from Taft (9-17, 2-11), which pulled out a 61-59 win over Warren (18-7, 8-5).
Warren’s loss put the Broncos in a third-place tie with the Warriors.
In pulling out the one-point win over O’Connor, Brandeis burst to an 18-7 lead in the first period and held off the Panthers and Brendan Wenzel, who scored 31 points, the final three frames.
Brandeis braved the storm with the steady work of Tanner Brown (16 points), Jordan Wood (12 points), Andrew Lazinbat (11 points) and Kyle Schaefer (10 points).
The Broncos carried the momentum into their contest with Holmes. The Broncos started quickly with a 21-10 first-quarter lead and continued to keep things flowing with more heroics from Schaefer (17 points), Wood (12 points) and Brown (11 points).
Despite the loss to Brandeis, O’Connor remained in reach of Brennan with a 64-57 win over Marshall.
Wenzel was on fire again, pouring in 37 points and guiding the Panthers to a 19-9 lead in the first quarter. Along the way, Adam Benhayoune knocked in 11 points as O’Connor foiled Marshall’s chance of a comeback.
Warren started off its week with a 71-62 win over Jay after battling back from an early deficit.
Down 25-22, the Warriors began taking charge as Jaden Campos (19 points), Nick Vann (18 points), Marcus Varela (18 points) and Kino Rodriguez-Thompson (10 points) led a 23-point burst in the third period that put them at a 45-38 advantage that was never relinquished.
Warren appeared to be on its way to another big victory after soaring to a 41-22 lead at one stretch, but Taft’s 18-4 explosion in the fourth quarter enabled the Raiders to pull out the come-from-behind victory.
Jon-Marc Flores-Diaz (28 points) and Nathaniel Morotta (12 points) led Raiders’ rally.
The Falcons (15-10, 7-6) stayed in the playoff race with a 71-58 win over Clark and a 61-56 victory over Jay.
Stevens went through a up-and-down first period with Clark.
The Cougars erupted for a 15-10 lead with Gibson’s two 3-pointers and inside shot. Stevens sprang back for an 18-17 advantage on Khouri Perkins’ drive in the paint and Brock Lasiter’s three-point play.
Still, Clark countered with another rally to carry a 23-18 lead in the second period following 3-point goals from Gibson and Truett Heintzelman.
Stevens stayed on Clark’s heels with more buckets from Perkins, who finished with 11 points, Jerene Batts (11 points), Carlton Linguard (19 points) and Angelo Sumudio.
That was good enough to put Stevens at a 39-38 halftime lead. More consistency followed in the second half
Stevens also had a tough tussle with Marshall, but Perkins’ 19 points and 11 rebounds, along with support from Linguard (12 points) and Batts (10 points) put the Falcons over the top.
Harlan remains locked into a first-place tie with Southwest in District 28-5A.
The Hawks (16-9, 11-1) stayed in the spot with a 62-40 waxing of Southside, followed by an 85-38 blasting of Uvalde.
Elijah Lomas was the top scorer against Southside with 20 points, while Julian Buie and Zarion Pitre added 13.
Jelen Hanspard led the Hawks against Uvalde with 14 points, while Lomas put in 13. Carlos Gasca added 11 points and Justin Ostaszewski knocked in 10 points.
For images from the game log onto https://echosportszone.pixieset.com/