By Richard Greene
Playing their first game in their new gym, the Bridgeport Bulls made a strong statement Tuesday that they are far different team.
With three players scoring in double figures and a defense that forced 25 turnovers, the Bulls blew out Millsap 66-37 in their season opener at Bridgeport High School gym.
“It’s a good look at the rest of the season,” said Bridgeport forward Blake Mahon, who led the Bulls with 18 points. “We came out with a lot of energy, and I don’t expect that to change.”
The 66 points were 14 points more than the Bulls scored in any game last season on the way to a 4-26 campaign.
“We’ve been working really hard,” said Bridgeport coach Brian Miller, who is starting his second season with the Bulls. “The kids have been getting into the gym and buying into what we’re telling them. We’ve been really emphasizing team and you could see that with the guys on the bench getting into the game.
“The kids are believing and expecting to be successful. We’ve got a long ways to go. It’s just the first game, but it’s good for the kids’ confidence to get the win and have some success.”
Playing his first game since breaking his back after being thrown from a horse in the offseason, Blake Mahon was nearly perfect on the night, hitting his first eight shots. The 6-6 forward finished eight of nine from the field with four rebounds.
“It felt great to be out there playing again,” Mahon said.
“Our point guards were looking down the court, and were doing a great job getting the ball to the rest of us.”
Mahon left the game shortly after his only missed shot with four minutes remaining, and his team up 58-32.
He was soon joined by the rest of the Bridgeport starters.
It was Bridgeport’s aggressive half-court defense that created scoring opportunities throughout the night, and allowed Bridgeport to build the comfortable lead. The Bulls forced six straight Millsap turnovers during one stretch of the first quarter, building an 15-4 lead.
Millsap had eight turnovers in the first quarter.
“We’ve told them that will be our identity,” Miller said about the defensive effort. “We’re focusing on our defensive positioning and applying pressure when we can. It allows us to push the ball in transition and attack the rim.”
Bridgeport led by nine, 17-8, after the first quarter. Cameron King pushed the lead back to double digits with a three-pointer to open the second frame. King finished with 14 points, hitting three three-pointers.
The Bulls led by 12, 33-21, at halftime.
Bridgeport put the game away in the opening minutes of the quarter with a 9-0 run to start the half that included a pair of baskets from Colby Mahon. He finished with six points and five rebounds.
The Bulls also ended the third quarter with a 7-0 spurt to take a 53-28 lead on a three-point play by Blake Arrington. He came off the bench to finish with six.
Nine different Bulls scored. Blake Thompson was the third Bridgeport player in double figures with 10.