It was only three weeks ago that All-Bay Rivers first-teamer Marcus Carter missed two late free throws and Bruton boys basketball dropped a 57-56 heartbreaker at home to Warhill.
But Wednesday night, in a similarly tight game, Carter scored a game-high 22 points and the Panthers got their revenge, holding home-court and dropping the Lions 65-59 in the district semifinal.
“Last time they came in and gave us a loss here, so we kind of had that in the back of our minds,” Bruton head coach Joe Dillard said after the game. “The hustle and the effort was the most important part of it tonight.”
While Carter was outstanding, much of the night was dominated by top-notch point-guard play as Warhill’s all-district first-teamer Devonte Dedmon and the Panthers’ Lonnie Swinton — himself an all-district second-team member — went head-to-head.
Dedmon finished with 14 points but was perhaps an even better passer than scorer, dishing out eight assists and serving as catalyst for the Lions’ half-court offense as well as their fast break.
“The guy’s awesome,” Warhill head coach Justin Hayes said. “I can live with him missing shots or making turnovers because I know he’s going to do something good with it on the next go-around, the kid’s great.”
Swinton, meanwhile, seemed to challenge himself to knock down a tougher shot each time down the floor, showing off his jump-shooting skills to score 16. Warhill center Marcus Brooks finished with a team-high 17 while Bruton forward Kapri Doucet also played a crucial role down the stretch, scoring seven in the fourth and knocking down two important late foul shots en route to a nine-point performance.
Even after struggling with turnovers and missed open looks early, Carter took over by the end of the first, capping his nine-point quarter by stepping into an NBA-distance three-pointer that gave Bruton a commanding 21-11 lead after one. Both sides then struggled offensively in the second before heading into halftime with the Panthers leading 29-20.
But as was expected, the Lions wouldn’t remain dormant as both sides hit their stride in the third. Dedmon got into the lane and knocked down a floater before rebounding a Bruton miss, getting out in transition and finding Warhill’s Brandon Pugh who was fouled attempting a three-pointer.
“Man, [Dedmon]’s fast,” Dillard said, “the kid’s fast and when he puts it down I almost want to say just all get back and don’t even try to stop the ball because he’s that fast … it’s very challenging to keep a kid like that in front of you.”
Pugh hit two of three and after getting a stop on the other end, Jacary Crew sank a three-ball off a Dedmon feed to cut Bruton’s lead to two.
Swinton got the Panthers back on the board with a pair of free throws and then assisted a Carter trey to send Bruton on a run of its own. Minutes later, Swinton showed up again, darting to the corner, catching an inbound pass and knocking down a contested, off-balance three-pointer to make it 39-32 Bruton.
Three straight Warhill field goals cut it to 39-38 but a 7-1 run to close the quarter gave the Panthers a 46-40 advantage going into the fourth, when both offenses really turned it up. Carter hit a fast-break layup off a turnover to start the quarter before Dedmon made a beautiful jumping, no-look pass to Brooks for an easy layup. Dedmon then found Crew for another three-pointer and forward Elden Tyler scored to make it a three-point game.
With just over three minutes to play, Dedmon dribbled through Bruton defenders and hit a left-handed layup to keep it a one-possession game. Down three with under a minute, Dedmon fouled Carter on an inbound pass, sending him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. Like in the fourth quarter of their last meeting, Carter missed and Warhill recovered the rebound. But unlike back in January, Carter picked off a Lions player and was fouled again with 40 seconds to go.
This time, he sank both to make it 60-55 and force the Lions to raise their tempo. On Warhill’s ensuing possession, Pugh tossed up an airball from the left corner, but Dedmon was there to clean it up, hitting the putback and drawing the foul for a chance at a three-point play with 22 ticks left.
He missed, but roles reversed as Pugh grabbed the offensive rebound and put it up and in to make it 60-59. The Lions quickly fouled Doucet off the Bruton inbound with 12 seconds to go and got the chance to get possession back when Doucet missed the back end of his one-and-one. However, Doucet himself crashed the lane and grabbed his own rebound before getting fouled again and hitting both to seal the win.
“I’m not going to say the the loss was all Bruton’s doing,” Hayes said, “but they hit their free throws and they made their layups when they needed to … but we have a game tomorrow so I’m not thinking about this, the game is over. I’m still confident and I’ll reflect that on my team.”
Bruton 65 Warhill 59
Bruton — 21 8 17 19 — 65
Warhill — 11 9 20 19 — 59
Bruton: Wade 2, Swinton 16, Rice 4, Simmons 7, Hert 3, Carter 22, Wallace 2, Doucet 9. 22; 14-17
Warhill: Brooks 17, Crew 10, Tyler 7, Dedmon 14, Pugh 9, Daye 2. 22; 12-17