LYNN HAVEN — Bay High and Mosley came into Friday night's matchup at Redfern Gymnasium as teams trending in opposite directions, with the Tornadoes winners of seven in a row and the Dolphins losers of six of their last seven.
Through 28 minutes of play, it looked as if Mosley might be on the verge of turning the tables and picking up a much-needed victory over a Bay High team that has to this point been the best team in Bay County.
It only took four minutes for that to fall apart and send the Dolphins further into a downward spiral. The Tornadoes used a 17-2 run to take control late in the fourth en route to a 58-46 victory, improving to 13-5 on the season and 5-0 against Bay County opponents. Mosley fell to 8-10.
Bay coach Rusty Cook said he wasn't surprised to see his team forced to dig deep in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
"These in-town games, the kids are familiar with each other," he said. "Mosley is a team that may not have as good of a record as they want, but it's a team that can beat anybody on any given night. If you let them hang around all game like we did tonight they can beat you. But I'm proud of my guys for stepping up when it counted. It wasn't pretty, but it's still a 'W' in the win column."
It's the sixth consecutive 'W' in true road games for the Tornadoes, who will get the chance to run that streak to nine with three more road games coming up against North Bay Haven, Fort Walton Beach, and South Walton.
For Mosley, it was the fifth home loss in the last six outings. The Dolphins will next go on the road Tuesday at South Walton.
Winning without the 'A' game
Many of the hallmarks of Bay High's success during the previous seven victories – sharp ball movement, tenacious turnover-forcing pressure defense, lightning-fast transition baskets, and timely 3-point shooting – were not evident through much of Friday's game.
Bay had trouble putting the ball in the basket, whether from deep or at the rim, and as a result had trouble putting the Dolphins away through three-and-a-half quarters, watching a 13-point first-half lead dwindle all the way down to one at 41-40 after a bucket inside by Randy Pittman with 4:20 to play.
The Tornadoes turned it on in the final half of the final quarter, however, and it was more than enough to get out of Redfern Gymansium with a win on a night when they didn't have their best performance.
"That's part of the maturation of this team," Cook said. "When you're playing well and the shots are falling, that's easy, but when you've got to grind one out you feel like you learn a lot more from these types of games. This gives me material for practice. When you play well, it's not a lot you can say during practice, so it allows you to be able to challenge your team when you have games like this."
While the defense was good enough to get the requisite stops to put the game away, Cook said it was at the other end of the court that the Tornadoes made the most important adjustments down the stretch.
"I had a hard time getting my guys to run our offense correctly," he said. "In that last timeout I just tried to spell it out as elementary as I can. Our offense is all about spacing and the spacing was bad all night long. Right up toward the end of the fourth quarter the spacing got good and then the offense got good."
The other guys
For much of the season, Bay High has been able to count on junior forward Deondrian Washington leading the team in scoring with 20 or more points and senior guard Timmy Brown not far behind in double figures as well.
On Friday, neither Washington nor Brown had it going offensively for much of the night, combining for 22 points (11 each) and just five of Bay's 21 points in the fourth quarter. It was senior forward Tyberias McCree who led a balanced attack with 12 points, with Jacques Lee scoring nine points, Keigi Lilly eight points, and Tramello Carter seven points.
McCree scored nine of his 12 in the fourth quarter, converting a three-point play on a cut to the basket and knocking in a 3-pointer moments later to make it 49-40. Following a transition two from Lee, McCree came up with a steal and found Carter for a dagger 3-pointer that made it 54-42 with just under two minutes to play.
"Timmy and Deondrian, they come prepared to score," McCree said. "They couldn't do that this game, so the other players had to come together and share the ball and move and operate and just get each other hype on the bench."
While Washington has earned most of the headlines this season and deservedly so after his run of seven consecutive 20-point games, Cook said it's the ability of anyone on the roster to step up and make plays in pressure moments that has made the Tornadoes' run of success possible.
"I'll be honest with you, Tyberias was having a subpar game for three quarters and then he just found a way in the fourth," he said. "But that's the beauty of this team. It's like I told you, (Washington) leads this team in scoring, but we don't run plays specific to him all the time. We'll have multiple guys, that's the luxury I have. We have multiple guys who can score 10-plus points. I'm really proud of Tyberias and the other guys who stepped up tonight."
Back to the drawing board
There were certainly positives to take away from the Mosley performance, like rallying back after falling behind 15-2 to start the game, then outscoring the Dolphins 14-10 in the third quarter and nearly pulling even midway through the fourth.
The end result was all the same, however, and all too familiar for a Dolphins team that has gone into a tailspin after a six-game winning streak culminating with two big wins at the Cottondale Christmas Classic left them at 7-3.
The opportunity to break the trend and get back on track Friday was there for the Dolphins, though they, unfortunately, were unable to stay out of their own way.
"I did think we competed, but we really struggled from the free throw line," Mosley coach Darin Ford said in reference to his team's 1 of 10 performance from the charity stripe. "We'll continue to take deep dives on how to improve our free throw percentages, but the No. 1 thing right now is to keep them together and keep everything positive.
"We break things down on film, we watch things closely, we do a ton of skill development in practice, eventually the light bulb is gonna go off and it's gonna click and body and mind and repetition will blend together."
Ford referenced last year's Mosley team that went into the postseason with a modest record of 11-10 before winning the district championship and then a playoff game before losing in overtime to eventual state runner-up Choctawhatchee as an example of a team peaking at the right time after an up-and-down regular season.
Despite the mounting losses, Ford said he doesn't believe the Dolphins are that far off from getting back to the level they were playing at during the six-game winning streak.
"We've played close games," he said. "We had a few run away from us against really tough opponents in the Christmas tournament, but other than that they've been tough, close games that just haven't bounced our way when there are a lot of different ways it could have. It's those little things, that extra free throw you could've made at the 3:08 mark in the third quarter in a game you were up by two or down by seven that would've been the difference maker. All that stuff counts.
"We'll continue to look at things. We've changed some things up, some of those changes have hit and some of them are indications we need to go back to the drawing board and continue to try and try and we'll do that. We've just got to keep the kids' heads up and keep moving forward."
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: 3 takeaways from the Tornadoes' 58-46 win over the Dolphins