Photo: Matthew Hurt shoots over Birmingham’s Jalen Crutcher during Thursday’s 122-111 Hustle loss to the Squadron at the Landers Center. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
The Memphis Hustle dropped its fourth straight game and fell to 2-5 for the regular season with Thursday’s 122-111 loss to the Birmingham Squadron before 393 fans at the Landers Center. Jake LaRavia, assigned to the Hustle by the parent Memphis Grizzlies, led the way for the home team with 20 points. He was one of six Memphis players in double figures.
However, six Birmingham players were also in double figures and two had double-doubles as the Squadron broke a three-game losing streak.
Jalen Crutcher led Birmingham with a game-high 24 points, followed by Kira Lewis Jr. with 21. Izaiah Brokington hit for 11 points and added a game-high 17 rebounds, followed by Trey Jamison with 15 points and 14 boards.
Birmingham took the early lead in the game at 29-25 after one quarter, but the Hustle responded with a 33-point second quarter for a 58-57 lead at halftime.
“First half, I loved how we played; I thought we put together a very solid first half,” said Hustle coach Jason March. “The third quarter, we came out flat and weren’t ready to go. But we couldn’t finish in the fourth quarter and that’s been a little bit of an issue for us.”
The Squadron answered with 36 points in the third quarter for a 93-87 heading into the fourth frame and never trailed from that point on.
The fourth quarter, as the Hustle tried to come back in the contest, was punctuated by the ejection of March, slapped with back-to-back technical fouls four seconds apart for disputing calls. The heave-ho came with 8:45 left in the game and assistant coach T.C. Swirsky coached the team for the rest of the game.
“I challenged a play that I know what I saw, I know the rules,” March said. “When a guy is driving and two hands are put on him and pushed, that’s a foul. I’m not going to go down without fighting for our guys. They’re out there fighting and competing and I’m going to fight for them.”
Shooting was also a problem in the second half for the Hustle, scoring only 24 points in the fourth quarter. Memphis shot 46.7 percent for the game from the floor, while Birmingham knocked down 49.5 percent of its shots from the floor.
The Squadron led by as much as 16 points in the win, while the Hustle’s biggest lead was four. There were five lead changes and the game was tied five times.
With the victory, Birmingham improved to 2-4 for the season. Memphis hopes to bounce back this weekend as a two-game series with the Ontario (California) Clippers begins with a 1 p.m. contest on Sunday afternoon at the Landers Center.