In the tunnel of Stegeman Coliseum last Thursday, Brunswick High boys basketball coach Chris Turner was walking back to the locker room to rejoin his players after talking with the media.
The Pirates had just lost a tough game in the Class 6A championship game to Langston Hughes, so there were plenty of somber faces hanging out in the tunnel — assistant coaches, school personnel and others who wanted to see Brunswick bring home its second state championship.
Before Turner went back into the locker room, he looked at the gloomy faces and had a simple message — keep your head up.
The final score in last week’s championship wasn’t indicative of how close the game really was. The record will show that the Pirates lost 73-52, but it won’t show how the Pirates trailed by just three points going into the fourth quarter. Things just got away from Brunswick in the fourth quarter.
It was a bad time to have their worst quarter of basketball. Langston Hughes shot 83 percent (10-of-12) from the field in the final quarter and connected on all six free throw attempts. In comparison, Brunswick had its worst quarter of the game, shooting just 3-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Sometimes the shots just don’t fall. In Brunswick’s case, it happened at the most inopportune time.
But that one bad quarter won’t define what kind of team the Pirates had this season. I admit that I didn’t see a lot of Brunswick’s games this year. That duty mostly fell into the very capable hands of sports reporter Taylor Denman.
The first time I saw the Pirates play would be in Fort Valley in the Class 6A Final Four against South Cobb. After that game, one of the most exciting hoops games I’ve ever seen in person, I was mad at myself for not getting out to more games this season.
Whether it was driving to the hoop or spotting up for a 3-pointer, any of Brunswick’s guards — Dereck Lampkin, Marcus Scott, Jaylen Jackson and Daquan Humphreys — can take over a game. It was Lampkin who did the heavy lifting against South Cobb in the semifinals and Scott who provided the scoring punch against Langston Hughes.
On the inside, there weren’t many players who could handle Kymani Dunham. The College of Charleston-bound forward is strong on the glass and has some nice moves in the post. He hit a sweet baby hook early against South Cobb that showed off just how nimble the big guy is around the basket. Reserves Chris Reed and Danijah Gammage provided a lift off the bench inside when called upon.
But the most important part to Brunswick’s success boils down to two words that can be clichés but absolutely true — effort and team.
The Pirates weren’t usually the bigger team when they stepped onto the court. That didn’t stop them from getting to more rebounds and loose balls than their opponents. No one epitomizes that more than Lampkin. The 6-foot-2 guard was the team’s top rebounder throughout the season. That held true in the championship game, where he led the Pirates with six rebounds.
The other word, team, is something Turner and his assistants drill into each player. The Pirates had four players averaging in double figures. Brunswick made the right passes at the right time to the open man. It wasn’t about a star, it was about a team.
That team certainly made everyone proud. So listen to Turner and keep your heads up. Don’t let one bad quarter sour the memories of a fantastic year.