Panthers power past Brookfield with late run

BROOKFIELD – Brookfield’s Jeremy Quinlan was just two points away from reaching his 1,000th career point, and yet that was the last thing on his mind during the fourth quarter of a showdown with East.

There were just too many other concerns on the senior’s mind, mainly the Panthers’ 6-foot-4, 235-pound forward, Deontay Scott, who averages 18 points and 14 rebounds.

“He’s a big dude,” said Quinlan, who fouled out two points shy of 1,000. “When he gets the ball inside, it’s either going in, or he’s getting fouled.”

It went in more often than not on Tuesday.

And, unfortunately for the Warriors, Scott wasn’t all they had to deal with.

East point guard Marquis Cotton scored 14 points during a key third-quarter run, and the Panthers pulled away from Brookfield for a 75-62 non-conference victory.

Scott was unstoppable down low early on and finished with a game-high 29 points and 14 rebounds. Yet, the Warriors (12-3) found a way to slow East’s inside game midway through the second quarter, deploying a zone defense that kept the ball from being passed inside. They continued that defense through the third quarter, and that’s when Cotton started to find his groove.

The 5-10 junior hit all three of the Panthers’ 3-pointers and added six more points in the third quarter to ignite a 10-1 run that doomed Brookfield.

“Their size and strength really wore on us – Deontay Scott is a man out there,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. “But we knew that coming in. We did not expect (Cotton) to shoot it that way. We saw him on film, we scouted them and he didn’t shoot that well. So, he had a really good game.”

Cotton found his rhythm at just the right time.

Brookfield took a 28-27 lead at the 6:40 mark of the third quarter. East (13-6) was struggling with its outside shot (0 for 7) and couldn’t get the ball inside to Scott, who was surrounded by defenders. So, Cotton pulled up a deep 3 from about two feet behind the arc that hit nothing but net, and he didn’t miss again the rest of the quarter.

“I just felt like I had to take charge,” said Cotton, who finished with 21 points and seven assists. “I’m confident in my shot. I work on it all the time. Once I hit two or three in a row, why stop?”

He didn’t stop until he had no choice. The quarter ended with him draining another deep 3 from the top of the key, which ended a brief Brookfield run and put the Panthers back up by 10. The final blow for the Warriors came when Quinlan fouled with 6:35 left in the game. He led Brookfield in points (20) and rebounds (12) and was its main option for an offense that was struggling to deal with a long and athletic East defense.

“It really played a role,” said Kovach of Quinlan fouling out. “And really, besides being in foul trouble, they wore us down, and our guys were tired. That’s also a credit to how hard our guys played.”

Quinlan said the fifth foul, which appeared to be on his brother, Jimmy Quinlan, was a tough way to leave the game, especially being one field goal short of 1,000 and with the game still in the balance. Both teams played physically (a technical was called on East at one point), and Jeremy Quinlan left the court with deep cut on his lip and what appeared to be a chipped tooth.

“I never got busted up like this – I got elbowed about three times in the face, my lips are bleeding and I don’t know what this is,” said Quinlan, pointing to his tooth. “It was frustrating (to foul out).”

Quinlan’s presence may have been the jolt the Warriors needed when they cut the lead to 11 and had possession with 3:30 remaining in the fourth, but with how well Cotton and Scott were playing, it’s hard to doubt the Panthers.

“With the loss of a couple of our players, different guys are going to have to step up,” said Panthers coach Dennis Simmons, who added that two players were suspended for violating team rules. “We had a talk with some of the guys, and (Cotton) was one of those guys, and he took the challenge. He has the talent to do this every night. He has the ability.”

He showed it Tuesday.