It may have been the first half of basketball all season that Brewer’s boys basketball star Brady Saunders was held scoreless, but in the second half against Hampden Academy, Saunders took over.
The senior scored 10 points in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth to put away the Broncos in a 52-38 win on Tuesday night.
After back-to-back overtime victories, the Witches stayed undefeated on Tuesday and moved to 12-0 on the season. Hampden fell to 5-7 with the loss.
Hampden set up its defense in a triangle-and-two defense where Aiden Kochendoerfer face-guarded Saunders and Zach McLaughlin followed Brewer’s Brock Flagg closely, while the other three Broncos defenders roamed the middle of the floor in a triangle-type shape. This defense proved strong over the first two quarters as Saunders was scoreless and Flagg, normally one of Brewer’s top scorers, finished the first two frames with four points.
On offense, McLaughlin, who entered the game averaging more than 21 points per game, scored 14 of the Broncos’ 19 points. JJ Wolfington had the other five for Hampden as the Witches trailed 19-18 at the half.
Brewer was kept afloat by forward Ryder Goodwin, who scored eight points in the second quarter and kept the Witches in the game.
“It’s huge to have guys that can all step up and score,” Brewer coach Ben Goodwin said. “They took away two of them and Ryder had a huge game. Anyone can have a big night and they’re all happy when we win.”
Brewer made some adjustments at halftime that got Saunders the ball and in better areas to get open shots.
“I think we made some adjustments but our biggest thing was we just let him run our offense,” Goodwin said. “We needed to get him more touches so in the second half we just ran our offense and we got the looks we wanted.”
Hampden also changed up its defense.
“Going into the locker room I was like, ‘Man, this is going to be a long game,’” Saunders said. “Then I came out and they were in man and I was the happiest kid in the world. I was able to make some shots.”
Saunders immediately grabbed an offensive rebound at the start of the third and went up for a layup before getting fouled. Saunders sank both free throws, then a couple possessions later hit a 3-pointer at the top of the arc that gave Brewer a 23-19 lead just 1:25 into the second half.
Goodwin added four more points in the third period and finished with 16.
McLaughlin was held to just two free throws in the third quarter as Saunders stepped up his man-to-man defense on Hampden’s high-scoring junior. McLaughlin finished the game with 23 to lead all scorers.
Brewer took a 32-25 lead into the fourth quarter and, in the final quarter, shot 13-of-14 from the free throw line to keep Hampden at bay, including a perfect 8-for-8 from Saunders.
“We practice free throws every day in practice and we shoot probably 100 a day,” Saunders said.
For Hampden coach Russ Bartlett, he knew it was a matter of time before Saunders found his shot.
“Brady is going to find ways to score and at the end he got to the foul line and finished it out,” Bartlett said. “I think he’ll be a finalist for Mr. Basketball, he’s that good. I didn’t realize he was scoreless but he is a really good closer.”
Wolfington finished the game with 15 points.
Bartlett said Hampden has played two games in “almost 20 days” and that the Broncos “just need to play some games” before the Class AA basketball tournament.
“I thought we had some game rust but we defended well, which kept us in it,” Bartlett added.