Brainerd boys jump ahead, survive late scare to top Tyner

Brainerd boys jump ahead, survive late scare to top Tyner

January 20th, 2019 by Patrick MacCoon in Sports - Preps

Brainerd's Xiyeer Lattimore, left, and Jante Williams pressure Tyner's Xavier Fisher during Saturday's game at Brainerd.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

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A promise well kept provided a major difference for Brainerd High School's boys' basketball team.

Kevin Halfacre and Malik Hymon had each other's backs as the junior duo keyed a 62-57 signature victory over Tyner, which visited Robert High-Carolyn Jackson Gymnasium with a flawless District 6-AA record on what was a good Saturday to be indoors.

"In eighth grade we use to always go at it and argue," said Halfacre, who had 16 points, seven assists and three steals as the Panthers forced 21 turnovers. "When we got to Brainerd together, we just made a promise to each other we were going to stay together and benefit each other's game."

While Halfacre and LaDerron Freeman shouldered a heavy load of the scoring to create a 47-32 lead through the end of three quarters, Hymon's poised presence and daggers were needed late.

Down by as many as 20 points, a Rams squad once again honoring the late Javon Craddock cut its deficit to 52-50 after Kobe Smith's tough finish through contact with just less than four minutes left to play.

Despite a thunderous run late, the last 2:44 belonged to the boys with the powder blue letters on the fronts of their jerseys.

Hymon put forth the most dominant stretch of his prep career as he scored the final 10 points for Brainerd (9-8, 5-3). Halfacre found the hot hand repeatedly in crunch time.

"Kevin and Malik feed so well off each other, and they put it all together tonight," Panthers coach Levar Brown said. "They have been best friends on and off the court. Kevin has been playing like this the past five games. I mean it when I say he is one of the best point guards in the state."

Freeman led the Panthers in scoring with 17 points.

Tyner (15-4, 8-1) put itself behind the 8-ball almost instantly by turning the basketball over 12 times in just the first quarter. The Rams dug themselves a 20-7 hole, helped by Halfacre's quick start with eight points.

Finding it tough even to get shots off in the first half, the visitors did not give up, although a rout easily could have carried all the way through.

Soloman Bridgeman, Amon Grace, Melique Hambrick and Smith combined for a 25-point fourth-quarter performance, but the early ball-handling mistakes proved too costly for the Rams.

Grace scored a game-high 22 points.

After beating Brainerd in the Times Free Press Best of Preps tournament by a familiar score of 62-57 on Dec. 29, Tyner will try to respond at Red Bank in district play Tuesday.

The Rams still stand atop the 6-AA standings thanks to a buzzer-beating win over Howard, which also is 8-1 in district play.

"This loss is kind of like medicine," Rams coach E'Jay Ward said after the defeat by his alma mater. "You don't like how it tastes, but you know it's good for you. We got hit in the mouth pretty hard tonight, but we fought back. My kids played hard, and that's all I ask for."

Fourth-place Brainerd will travel to Signal Mountain on Tuesday.

"We can celebrate tonight, but we have to get back to preparation," Brown said. "Our district is too tough to not stay mentally focused."

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