BELTON — After losing sole possession of first place in the District 12-6A standings last Friday, the Belton Tigers were on a mission Tuesday to at least stay tied for the lead.
Three players scored in double digits as the Tigers succeeded in their mission, cruising past the Bryan Vikings 70-51 at Tiger Gym.
“That was really big,” said Belton’s Ben Jones, who scored 14 points. “Everybody stepped up tonight, and we played the best defense we’ve played in a while. We hustled 24/7.”
That defense was focused on controlling the Vikings’ top scorers — Dylan Glover, Rodney Johnson Jr. and Dominic Caldwell — which it did. Caldwell was scoreless, and Johnson had just five points. Glover had 26 but only two in the opening half as Belton took control early and led 33-19 going into halftime.
“We crashed the boards on (Johnson),” Jones said. “Obviously, he can jump so we pushed them back and got a lot of rebounds. And we played well against (Glover in the opening half), which helped us win the game.”
The Tigers (13-3, 4-1) held a 35-25 edge in rebounding, which included several offensive boards for second-chance opportunities. Not that they needed many as they had little trouble producing points.
TJ Johnson scored 26 points, and Trap Johnson had 19 for the Tigers, who hit 11 3-pointers, including one by Jones to open the second half off an assist by TJ Johnson.
“At halftime, we talked about the play we were going to run, and I felt like Jones would have a look,” Belton coach Jason Fossett said. “He didn’t have his best game (last Friday) against (Killeen) Ellison, so I figured he’d have one tonight. When he hit that first 3, I figured he’d hit two or three more. And he kept rolling.”
Jones finished the third quarter with nine points and added one more 3 in the fourth.
TJ Johnson, who didn’t hit a single 3 in the loss to Ellison, hit two big 3s in the second quarter when the Tigers were up 23-15. His first one came from the top of the arc to give Belton a double-digit lead and he followed it with one from the right corner for a 29-15 advantage.
Glover tried to answer immediately for the Vikings (13-3, 3-2) but missed from beyond the arc, and the Tigers went on a fast break. Caden Downs got an open look with an assist from TJ Johnson to cap the 8-0 run and effectively put the game out of reach.
“We know TJ gets a lot of attention,” Fossett said. "So when he gets in there and gets his feet set, the other guys are going to be open. He just has to get it to them. We work on that in practice all the time, and I have confidence in all our guys. They all have the green light if they have the open shot.”
Both Fossett and Jones said the Tigers were eager to put the loss to Ellison behind them and come out strong against the Vikings to stay tied for first place.
“We wanted to put it behind us,” Fossett said of Friday’s loss. “You don’t want to lose a couple then its spirals into three. Then you dig yourself a hole and are trying to get out of the hole to get back into the playoff race. We wanted to put an end to that.
“In district, you have to defend your home court and not lose any you are supposed to win then see where the chips fall.”