BRISTOLVILLE - A member of 1,000-point club at Bristol High School, Craig Giesy knows a thing or two about putting the basketball in the hoop, something he has in common with current senior Brandon Lee.
The Class of 2003 Bristol graduate has coached Lee every year since the senior was in sixth grade outside of his freshman year, so it was fitting that the school's second-leading career scorer (1,671 points) handed a specially decorated ball to commemorate Lee's 1,000th career point during the first quarter of Bristol's 62-60 win over Mathews.
With a 3-pointer on the left wing at the 4:08 mark in the first, Lee became the 15th player in school history (and ninth boy) to reach the milestone.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
At 4:08 the mark in the first quarter, Bristol’s Brandon Lee hit a 3-pointer to give him his 1,000th career point.
"He's kind of been in the shadow of Chad Oliver, and it's just nice for him to have his own night, where he can be celebrated for what he's done here," Giesy said. "The 1,000-point club here at Bristol is a pretty special place. Some very good basketball players are in that club, and I'm glad for him that he's a part of it now."
The milestone-clinching 3-pointer wasn't the most important one of the night for him or his team. In a 57-57 ballgame late in the fourth quarter, the 6-foot guard connected on a wide-open look from beyond the arc to give Bristol (14-6, 8-4 Northeastern Athletic Conference) the lead with 1:47 remaining in the game - a lead the team didn't relinquish.
After Zeth Tomasiak hit a deep two-point field goal on the team's next possession, the Panthers held off the Mustangs (8-11, 6-8 NAC), who got a three-point play from Wyatt Ford with 1:04 remaining in regulation and had a couple of opportunities in the closing seconds to tie.
"I just remember getting the ball and being wide open and I was like, 'I'm going to hit the shot down - we need this,' " Lee said of his last 3. "I didn't want to lose on my 1,000th-point night. So, it was a good thing we got the win."
The win was in doubt because of a strong performance by Mathews in handling Bristol's patented press. While the Mustangs did commit 27 turnovers in the game, the offense tore the press apart at times, simply throwing over the top, especially after Bristol buckets, to score quick points.
That philosophy showed in a 13-3 run at the beginning of the second quarter that gave Mathews a 30-25 lead at the 5:36 mark.
"They may be fast, but we had Wyatt Ford and Jeremy Forsythe looking over the top and they just picked them apart," Mathews coach Jason Lee said. "I don't care how fast you are, if we spread the court like that, we're getting up the court."
There were also times when the Panthers committed uncharacteristic errors, including the first four minutes of the third quarter, when Bristol turned the ball over six times - four of which were travel violations. It wasn't until Brandon Lee drove for a bucket at the 3:11 mark that Bristol managed to score in the third.
The Panthers committed 18 turnovers total.
"When we had Cobie Pratt, Tommy (Wade) Sharp and Corey Savric in there, they were getting after anybody at the top of that key, and I think that's what caused a lot of those turnovers," Jason said. "When you've got the height in the back and you've got guards that are going to pressure people, you're going to get some turnovers even in a zone."
Despite the struggles, Bristol used a barrage from 3-point land at important junctures to stay in the game, stopping Mustang runs or keeping Mathews from pulling too far ahead. Overall, the Panthers drained 13 treys and went 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Brandon had five himself, finishing with 17 points, and senior Johnny Simcox, who recorded a game-high 18 points, hit four.
"We've been hitting the 3s lately," Brandon said. "At the beginning of the year, we were struggling, but we're starting to come together and hit those 3s. Now, we need to get that inside game working again."
As much as Brandon's 3-point shooting ability has helped his individual and team success, Giesy said his mid-range jumper is undervauled by many outside of the team. No matter what, though, Brandon has shown the propensity to score.
"Even when he was younger, he could always find a way to put the ball in the hoop," Giesy said. "It's never been a problem of his. He deserves those accolades. He's a great kid."