After leaving a little something to be desired 24 hours earlier, the Bremen High School boys' basketball team delivered the 32-minute effort Josh Carter was looking for on Thursday evening.
The Blue Devil head coach thought the hustle, intensity and overall result was much better in the 69-45 victory over the host squad of the 42nd Annual Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational Tournament, pushing Bremen into today's 5 p.m. third-place game to close out the three-day holiday event.
"I don't know if we gave all 32 (minutes), but it was better than what we've been giving. So we'll take it. We told the kids from (Wednesday) to (Thursday), it's all about choices. If you want to do something, you'll do it. If you don't want to do something, you won't do it," Carter said. "The focus was really on us. Not necessarily what Haralson County was doing or what anybody else was doing. It was about what we were doing."
For Haralson County head coach Anthony Angle, it was a matter of giving up the big run again that proved detrimental after the Rebels (2-7) had battled to keep pace and even take a 19-16 lead midway through the second quarter.
"We hit a point in the game, whether it's the second or third quarter, and we give up some easy baskets and we go from right there within a couple of points to down 10. Then we are fighting back the whole time," Angle said. "It's a hard place to fight back against a good team like Bremen and come back and win."
For the second straight night, the Blue Devils (4-7) raced out to a fast start, building a 13-3 advantage in the opening quarter, but the Rebels scored the final seven points of the period to pull within 13-10 and eventually took their first lead of the evening by making a living at the free-throw line in the first half.
Haralson County was in the bonus less than 20 seconds into the second quarter and hit the double bonus by the 5:28 mark, using a 16-5 run between the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter to go up three on a pair of Enrique Fermine free throws.
Bremen closed the half, strong, however, rattling off seven straight points to regain the lead and Will Roth's putback at the buzzer made it a 32-23 Blue Devil advantage going into the break.
The Blue Devils were able to pull away in the second half, using several run-outs from point guard Austin Stanford, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, to stretch the lead to 13 by the end of three and a 12-0 run early in the fourth quarter put the game away.
Angle noted how poor transition defense helped key those easy buckets for the Blue Devils in the second half.
"We've got two guys that should be getting back every time and when we don't get back we give up those lay-ups. So that's something we've got to get corrected," Angle said.
Along with the 15-point performance from Stanford, junior wing Charlie Crafton led all scorers with 20 points and eight rebounds, while Dalton Smith added eight, Jason Houston scored seven with seven boards and Roth finished with six before going down with an injury.
The offensive balance is something Bremen hasn't necessarily had in recent years, and Carter said it's definitely proven beneficial through the first half of the 2017-18 season.
"We still think we have more scorers than we've had in the past few years. I really think that we've got four to five kids who can put it in the hole. That helps a whole lot. When you've got one kid who's not scoring, we know we've got three or four behind him that can score," Carter said.
Sophomore post Jonathon Housen led the Rebels with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Nijah Smith added seven and DeAngelo McFarling scored six.
Now that the tournament run is over for Haralson County, it'll get back to work for Region 6-AAA play starting back up in January.
Angle said despite some tough setbacks this week, his squad is making progress and focusing on further improvement over the next few months.
"They're getting better. I know that's hard to say when you're getting beat by 20 two nights in a row. But we've talked about getting better from last year and they're taking strides to get better every day. There's parts of the game that don't show up in the box score that's really making a difference for us in keeping the game close," Angle said. "Once we put a full game together, then I think some of these region games we'll be able to sneak in there and beat some guys that may just think that they're going to get a 'W.'"
For the Blue Devils, they'll square off in the third-place showdown against Temple, which fell in the late game on Thursday night to Spring Garden (Ala.). The Panthers will take on Pepperell in boys' championship game at 8 this evening.