Blue Coats Play Matinee for MLK

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The South Bay Lakers, 10-16 in the G League Western Conference, made a visit to the 76ers Fieldhouse on Monday afternoon. The Matinee match was held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and featured a special reading of one of MLK’s famous speeches. The Blue Coats entered the game at 13-10 while navigating the G League season with its various lineup combinations and rotations.

Of particular note lately is Michael Bryson, a 6’4″ wing who scored 17 points in the Blue Coats’ last contest, a 123-95 loss to Grand Rapids. Blue Coats head coach Connor Johnson said of Bryson, who has come back from a season ending ankle injury last year to fight his way back into the rotation, “A great team fit for us. One, just being a great guy around all our other players when he’s been out.”

Johnson continued, “He’s working his way back into the rotation, getting more minutes every day and is a big time defender.” Bryson, 25, flashed athleticism, bounce, and a good shooting touch. Bryson is a career 39% three point shooter as a pro. “He can really shoot it when he gets in a good rhythm,” said Johnson. “So we’ve been working with him, shooting and other situations.”

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

First Half

The Blue Coats got whatever they wanted in the first half versus an undersized Lakers team. The Lakers’ tallest player is Kostas Antetokounmpo, who is somewhat miscast as a center. Marial Shayok led the Coats with 19 first half points on 8-13 shooting and 3-5 from three. The Lakers, playing a 1pm east coast game, were a bit sleepy defensively, and the Coats dominated both on the boards and from three. The Coats shot 52.8% from the floor in the first half and went 11-24 as a team.

Zhaire Smith started the game hot with 5 quick points in the early moments on a driving dunk and a three. Smith was held scoreless for the balance of the first half and finished 2-6 with 5 points heading into the break. 

Xavier Munford, who returned to the starting lineup after a handful of games coming off the bench, scored 17 points on just 9 shots in the first half. Munford has been an excellent scorer in second halves of games this season. Early aggression from Xavier is key to the team getting off to hot starts. I have been perhaps too critical at times of Munford’s approach early in games. When he is looking for his offense early, it opens up many options for the Blue Coats’ offense.

The Blue Coats led 75-54 at the half. Zach Norvell and Kostas Antetokounmpo paced the Lakers with 14 apiece.

 

Halftime Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Reverend John Moore and Khayden of Khayden Arts performed a tribute to MLK at the half.

Second Half

Christ Koumadje was ejected from the game midway through the third quarter after protesting a foul call. That left the Coats with just one center. The game seemed well in hand when Koumadje was ejected, as the Coats stormed to easy baskets and dominated inside and out against a Lakers team that showed little more than a willingness to run the floor. The Blue Coats led by 30 at the time of the ejection.

Koumadje finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks in just 16 minutes of play. His fire and competitive spirit is a boon for the Blue Coats’ interior defense. When asked about finding the line between aggressiveness and control, Connor Johnson said, “No, you can’t be a wild card out there, at the next level you are going to be a 13th, 14th man and third big off the bench. You have to be rock solid dependable.” Johnson cited Amir Johnson as someone whose reliability translated into a long NBA career. 

After that time the Lakers attacked the rim relentlessly and cut the lead to 97-80 after three. Doral Moore, the 7’0″ reserve center made South Bay pay on the other end in Koumadje’s absence. Moore finished the game with 17 points and 3 blocks.

The fourth quarter was mostly a case of survival for Delaware as the Lakers applied pressure on the backcourt while continuing to play downhill and attacking the rim. The lead, which had been more than 30, was reduced to 8 in the final minute. Ultimately, the Blue Coats held off the Lakers 119-109 to win their 14th game of the season. Shayok finished with 29 to lead the Coats. Zach Norvell Jr. (22) and Kostas Antetokounmpo (21/13) led the Lakers.