The Blue Devils (2-3) strung together their second consecutive win, as they held on to defeat Mt. Zion, 44-38, on the road Friday night. It was not only the second straight win, but the second win overall for Bremen, which is learning from last year's mistakes.
"That's the difference between this year and last year. Last year we weren't finishing them off. We tried to give it away again there [Friday]. Sometimes you play not to lose instead of playing to win, and we've got to learn to play to win," Bremen coach Billy Pollard said. "Confidence is huge, especially with kids. If they feel like they're going to win, they're going to play hard ... I don't care what you say, winning cures everything."
In their first loss, it came down to one thing for the Eagles (4-1) — being able to make shots. MZ didn't make shots it had been making and went just 2-of-11 from the 3-point line on the night.
"It's hard to score 38 points and win a basketball game, that's for sure. Bremen plays good defense. They got after us. We haven't really seen much pressure like that and we opened up the game by missing our first five or six lay-ups," MZ coach Joey Marinelli said. "We just didn't hit any shots. First four games, we didn't play great offensively, but some of those shots we hit weren't falling [Friday]."
Bremen came out strong, taking a seven-point lead after one and a nine-point lead into halftime. Then the Blue Devils used a lockdown third quarter, allowing just three points. But they let Mt. Zion start to work its way back in the fourth quarter.
"I think if we were doing what we did at the beginning of the game the whole game, it wouldn't have been as close there at the end," Pollard said. "I was proud of their effort. They played their butts off defensively, and that's where we won that game."
A Chris Blanchard 3-pointer — he made both Eagle treys on the night — cut it to a five-point game, but with just 7.8 seconds left it would be too little, too late for Mt. Zion.
The Blue Devils got at least five points from five different players, with Trent McClure's 11 points pacing Bremen. Nick Forrister added 10 points and Taylor Shumake added eight. Josh Johnson led Bremen with eight rebounds.
Corey Loftin led MZ with 13 points, while Nate Warren grabbed eight rebounds. For the Eagles, today will be a chance to recuperate from their first loss as they try to bounce back at 6 p.m. against Bowdon.
Bremen girls 58, Mt. Zion 36: If coach Kathy Matthews had her way, every game would go like Friday night's affair in MZ.
The Lady Blue Devils (4-2) had 12 straight steals, forced more than 20 turnovers and were in the passing lane all night long.
"That's what we wanted to do. [Mt. Zion] always gives us a good run for our money. We knew we had to come in, especially playing in their place, and play good defense. Our defense jump-starts our offense. That's how we play, that's what we wanted to do and we did it," Matthews said.
After one quarter, Bremen held an 11-point advantage and increased it to 22 with a 43-21 advantage at halftime.
From there, the Lady Blue Devils were able to keep the Lady Eagles (4-1) offense off-balance enough to hand MZ its first loss of the season.
"[Bremen's] got a veteran team. They've got nine seniors, we've got one. Our youth showed [Friday] night. Like I told our girls, we didn't take care of the basketball. We had a run there to cut it to eight and then we throw it away five or six times. We need that kind of competition if we're going to get better. We've got to move forward, watch tape, learn from our mistakes and move on," MZ coach Bill Bailey said.
Aside from the defensive numbers — Kalia Johnson with six steals and Jamia Johnson with five — Jordan Hill led the way with 21 points, while Kayleigh Medlin added an 18-point, 11-rebound double-double down low. Jamia Johnson chipped in with nine points for Bremen.
For Mt. Zion, it was Alexis Jordan's nine-point, eight-rebound effort leading the way, while Brittney McIntosh added six points and Toni Hammond and Jennifer Bagby added five points each.
Both teams will continue to face former region foes today.
The Lady Eagles will try to bounce back from their first loss by getting back to the type of play Bailey has come to expect from his team as it hosts Bowdon today at 4:30 p.m.
For Bremen, it's a trip up to Chickamauga for a 4 p.m. shot at Gordon Lee, the Lady Blue Devils' proverbial white whale. The two teams met at the beginning of the month, with Gordon Lee pulling out the five-point win.
"[I expect] the same thing we saw last week. It was a battle to the end. We actually won three quarters and they outscored us in the third quarter. This group has never beaten Gordon Lee. It's a friendly competition. We've become friends with them, but when we step on the floor [today], we want to win. This group wants to beat them before they graduate," Matthews said.