Looking for a spark, Red Bank turned to junior post player Brandon Jones in a tightly contested District 6-AA basketball game Thursday night at Brainerd.
With the score tied and momentum on the host Panthers' side with four minutes left to play, a fire was lit under the athletic big man for the Lions.
From the 3:45 mark to 1:30 to go, Jones accounted for all the points in a 10-0 run that began with a left-handed turn-around floater in the paint and ended with an emphatic two-handed slam dunk.
Totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds in the 69-61 victory, Jones still was quick to honor his teammates after finishing a regular-season sweep of Brainerd, which missed its leading scorer.
"In my high school career I think this is one of the best games we've played as a team," Jones said. "We played like we know how to play. We hustled and played our hearts out."
Fellow third-year Red Bank standout Lucas Brown was in rhythm with 20 points and a game-high three makes from beyond the arc, while he too slammed one home in the final eight minutes.
After taking possession of third place in the district behind Tyner and Howard, the Lions (10-7, 4-3) had plenty to be pleased about.
"This was big to close out a game in a tough environment against an opponent who gave it their all," Red Bank coach Nick Fike said. "I've been telling these guys if they play together as a team, we have all the pieces. I thought our depth proved that tonight."
The Panthers (5-7, 2-3) fired back at several points, which included eight straight points scored by Xiyear Lattimore in the first half. The hosts led 35-33 at halftime.
Kevin Halfacre contributed a team-high 16 points, and Jante Williams and Cameron Evans had big offensive putbacks late to go with a clutch 3-pointer from Jamaal Ward.
It was Brainerd's first time back in action since playing in the Best of Preps tournament semifinals on Dec. 29.
"Our guys are young, but show heart and fight," Panthers coach Levar Brown said. "We are still trying to figure each other out. We feel good about how we play defensively, but we have to pick it up a notch on the offensive end of the floor."
The Lions came out sharp in the third quarter, which included senior Calvin Jackson dishing an alley-oop pass from midcourt to a leaping Brown for the lay-in and going up-and-around to assist Kel Eddins. The speedy Jackson also cruised down the floor for a layup to beat the buzzer, and the Lions headed into the final period with a seven-point lead.
"Calvin is my quarterback on the floor a lot of times," Fike said. "He and all five guys out there we trust to make the big plays and step up. We really jelled well tonight. It took a complete team effort."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at email@example.com.