OOLTEWAH, Tenn. — Defense is the key to almost every game, and that was the case in Tuesday's District 6-AA rematch between East Hamilton and Brainerd.
The visiting Panthers (9-9, 7-4 District 6-AA), who cruised to a 23-point home victory over the Hurricanes on Dec. 11, had to work a little harder this time around, especially on the offensive end.
That didn't concern head coach Robert High, though, especially after his team's hard-fought 49-43 victory.
"The key to any game is defense," High said. "I thought we did a decent job. I think we did a real good job defensively. That was our main concern. We know we can get points. Our thing is we need to play good defense, especially this time of year."
East Hamilton (13-6, 5-2), which had an eight-game winning streak snapped with back-to-back losses at last weekend's Scenic City Showcase, suffered its first district setback Tuesday since being humiliated by the Panthers in early-December.
"This game was kind of a revenge game for us," East Hamilton head coach Michael Stone said. "They gave us our first district loss of the season and pretty much embarrassed us at their place. I think the guys responded well as far as that went."
DeVonte Cooper scored a game-high 17 points for the Panthers, who led 22-18 at the break, Jay Besley (12) and Marques Tipton (10) also finished in double-figures, while Brainerd hit 8 of 10 from the free-throw line in the final quarter to held seal the win.
"We had more mental lapses than they did on defense," Stone said."We gave up more interior shots than they did. On the offensive end they were a little more intent of forcing the ball into the paint."
East Hamilton's Dominic Powell scored a team-high 14 points — four 3-pointers —and Cody Knox added 11, including a pair of fourth-quarter treys.
The Hurricanes return to action Thursday when they travel to Howard, while the Panthers host Hixson on Friday.