WELLSBURG - Wednesday's court war between Big Red and Brooke featured a little bit of everything (scoring bursts, comebacks, a three-point barrage, several nifty blocks along with a break-away slam) and a whole lot of Tajuan Lawson.
The Steubenville senior guard scored 14 points, dished out seven assists and recorded four steals as Mike Haney's club earned a 65-63 victory before a large crowd inside the Brooke Wellness Center.
"That was a very good win for us against a really solid, well-coached team," Haney said. "They were down in Florida, they are playing hot and it's good to beat them over here."
AT THE BUZZER — Brooke’s Hunter Wallace puts up a shot against the defense of Steubenville’s Periogn West as time expires Wednesday in Wellsburg. The shot was off-target, preserving Big Red’s 65-63 victory.
-- Fred Younce
With the win, Big Red moves to 6-2 on the campaign while the Bruins fall to 5-3.
Once the game got rolling, following a fantastic rendition of the national anthem by Brooke senior Brett Kimball, the visitors sprinted to an early lead.
Thanks to its defensive pressure and sharp-shooting from behind the arc, Big Red was able to outscore the Bruins 20-14 during the initial eight minutes. Of Steubenville's eight field goal makes, four came from downtown. Lawson and Periogn West both knocked a pair of triples.
West's second three-ball put the Red ahead by nine (15-6). Dave Reitter's club, however, reeled off six straight (Hunter Wallace getting four) to pull within three. A Lawson three combined with Glenn Purdue's make from the paint increased the advantage to six.
Brooke opened the second frame with a 7-0 scoring burst (Wallace getting four and Eric Johnson swishing a triple) to grab a 21-20 lead. Lawson then keyed a Big Red rally, which saw the visitors reel off 12 straight.
He started by scoring off a nifty drive to the basket. He then swiped the inbounds pass and kissed one off glass. Following a Brooke turnover, Lawson assisted on an Adam Sterling three-ball. West followed with his third three-pointer. John Linn gave Big Red a 38-25 halftime advantage when he drained a three off yet another Lawson dish.
In the first half, Big Red was 15 of 29 from the floor and a red-hot seven of 10 from behind the arc.
Reitter's cagers came out smoking to start the third frame. Russell Schwertfeger got the Bruins going when he drove uncontested down the lane for a pair. Wallace tallied four in a row, his first hoop coming off an outstanding feed from Eric Johnson. Austin Schambach ticked the twine from behind the arc and Wallace followed with a deuce. The 11-0 run sliced the gap to just two (38-36).
Big Red recovered on Chris Smith's conventional three-point play (his deuce came following another Lawson assist). Johnson tied it at 41 on a triple. Four straight points by hard-working Jesse Gambellin put Brooke on top 47-46. That set the stage for Mylik Young's slam. He went coast to coast after recording a steal. Brooke went back on top 50-48 following a Schwertfeger free throw and another Wallace basket. Brandon Herring-Hill's three gave the visitors a 51-50 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
"We were up at half by 13 and we talked to them about how important the first three minutes of the second half would be," Haney added. "We told them someone is going to get that run. We tried to hold them off but they cut the lead down within the first two minutes. Then we responded with a little run of our own."
The Bruins took a three-point lead early in the final frame on hoops by Ryan Heaton and Wallace (this one also came via a Johnson feed). West knotted the score at 58, draining yet another three following yet another Lawson assist.
Baskets by Young (off a West assist) and Linn (thanks to a pass from Lawson) put Big Red up 65-59 late in the fourth. The Bruins, however, wouldn't quit. Johnson canned a triple and Wallace nailed one from the line. Brooke rebounded a missed Big Red free throw with just a little more than 18 seconds to go.
The Bruins were able to get a good look but Big Red's Young went up and swatted away what could have been the game-tying shot.
"They went up on us late and we were down three," Haney noted. "Then, we were able to make a shot, play some good defense, get some turnovers, a couple of rebounds and were able to hang on."
Even in defeat, Reitter was proud of his Bruins for "not quitting."
"Our kids over the last couple of years have not quit on us," he pointed out. "They kept battling and played hard. A couple of times when we tied the score or took the lead, we made mistakes. Some of those mistakes were unforced and some were caused by Big Red. We just need to be a little more poised down the stretch."
Lawson paced the winners in scoring with 14 (he also had five rebounds). West finished with 12, Linn 11 and Sterling nine. The winners were 26 of 56 from the floor (they had 10 triples) and collected 29 rebounds (Young grabbed seven).
"He was all over the floor tonight," Haney said of Lawson's performance. "He scored, got rebounds, steals and made some nice passes. He did a good job defensively and was able to push the ball up the court. He's a senior and we expect that from our seniors. We expect them to be our leaders."
Wallace took game scoring honors with 23. Johnson added 13 and Gambellin 12, to go along with his four blocks. Brooke knocked down 25 of 53 field goal tries (four came from behind the arc) and grabbed 30 missed shots. Wallace and Schwertfeger each had six.
"He (Wallace) played well," Reitter pointed out. "I thought we all played well and we were able to get the ball to the right guy and the right time.
"It was a just a matter of being a little more poised against their pressure. Big Red has a good team and Mike has them playing well. Our kids are playing well also. We just need to take care of the little things in order for us to be more successful."
Both teams will be back in action Saturday. Big Red hosts Catholic Central in round one of the annual city championship series while Brooke will welcome Morgantown.
Big Red 65, Brooke 63
Big Red 20 18 13 14 - 65
Brooke 14 11 25 13 - 63
BIG RED (6-2): West 4 0-0 12; Linn 5 0-0 11; Herring-Hill 1 0-0 3; Lawson 6 0-2 14; Herrington 0 0-0 0; Young 3 1-2 7; Sterling 3 1-2 9; Smith 2 1-2 5; Purdue 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 26 3-6 65. 3-pointers: West (4), Linn, Herring-Hill, Lawson (2), Sterling (2); Rebounds 29 (Young 7); Turnovers 20.
BROOKE (5-3): Dameron 0 0-0 0; Cole 0 0-0 0; Schambach 3 0-2 7; Johnson 5 0-0 13; Wallace 10 3-4 23; Heaton 2 0-0 4; Schwertfeger 1 2-4 4; Gambellin 4 4-4 12. TOTALS: 25 9-14 63. 3-pointers: Schambach, Johnson (3); Rebounds 30 (Wallace, Schwertfeger 6); Turnovers 18.