Barr kept Pioneers rolling in 1st year

Posted: March 28, 2014

Millbrook coach Kevin Barr — The Winchester Star’s Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year — guided the Pioneers to a 20-5 record in his first season as head coach. Millbrook also won 20 games for the sixth straight season.

The Pioneers, who only had one senior — Northwestern District Player of the Year Brenna Cook — on their roster, finished unbeaten (8-0) in the Northwestern District and then advanced to the Conference 21 semifinals with a 60-44 win over Dominion and then rallied for a thrilling 59-58 win over Woodgrove, erasing a 14-point deficit at the half and an eight-point deficit with less than a minute remaining, to earn a regional berth for the seventh year in a row.

Barr’s team opened the season with nine consecutive wins and then capped another nine-game winning streak with the victory over Woodgrove. From there, the Pioneers lost at Loudoun County 66-48 in the conference finals and then lost at Chancellor in the 4A North Region quarterfinals.

Barr should have a talented team to build on next season with 10 players returning. The Pioneers return a young — but experienced — team with just Casey Ackerman and Mia VanderToorn as the only rising seniors next year.

Q. Expectations coming into the season?

Barr: It’s tough to follow in coach [Debby] Sanders’ footsteps, but the expectations with me was kind of the same as she had. We expect them to come out and give 100 percent when they come out on the court. Wins and losses don’t matter because if we can get them to give 100 percent then the wins will take care of themselves. We didn’t talk about streaks but instead we talked about giving what you can give on the court and the rest will take care of itself.

Q. What stands out about the season?

Barr: I think just the all-around camaraderie the girls had just as a team. Sometimes you have cliques here and there, but this year the girls all seemed to get along and care genuinely about each other. We had girls who didn’t care about their own stats and minutes and they cared about the players on the floor and rooted them on. Whether they got two minutes or 20 minutes, it was all about the success of the team. It was refreshing to have a group of kids who wanted to succeed as much as they did.

Q. What games stand out or were significantly important?

Barr: The second Sherando game was a good game. We came out in the first game and won by a large margin. We knew it wasn’t going to be the same Sherando team. We got down 12-0 early and sometimes you kind of question yourself. We had to settle down and believe that they were a good team. It was just a five- or six-minute period where we didn’t play well. We ended up winning and it was a game we needed to win.

And the loss against Turner Ashby — the girls scrapped and fought back and we came up short. We talked after that game what it would take to win those games and we did that against Sherando and Woodgrove.

Q. What was the most rewarding moment from this group?

Barr: I like to practice. The games are great, but I like to be able to get out and work with the girls and coach and teach them. Getting them to do the little things in practice to make them better players — that’s what I like in coaching in general. The girls wanted to learn and do what you told them to do. Then they go out and show you on the court they’ve been listening and learning and that’s where the real reward comes in. When you see that it makes everything worthwhile. But don’t get me wrong, I do like to win.

Q. What player or players surprised you this year?

Barr: I don’t know if I’d say any surprised me because I knew all were capable of giving us time. I would say one would be Kelli White being a freshman. She broke her collarbone and couldn’t play any basketball until the fall. I hadn’t got a chance to see her play much, but from where she started to where she finished — she did a great job of learning and getting back into shape. She gave us minutes, and Joneisha Cain — anytime we needed somebody to make a shot or knock down a shot, especially when teams were focusing on Lauren [Reed] and Brenna [Cook], when the ball swung to J she’d hit a shot at the right time. And Liz McDonald was a sophomore who almost gave us 10 rebounds a game.

Q. Most difficult/most memorable moments?

Barr: (Most memorable) — The Woodgrove game. I know coach [Kevin] Copley well and he’ll hate that I mentioned that but we were down at the half by [14 points] and just the way the girls responded. They came out in the second half and cut it and we were down by seven with about 36 seconds left. We executed everything down the stretch. We had a play at the end of the game and the ball ends up in Joneisha’s hands and she knocked it down. It was kind of a March Madness game when you can’t sleep for 10 hours after the game. It was pretty awesome. (Most difficult) — I think for me the most difficult was the Chancellor game, knowing your season is over and having to look your one senior [Cook] in the eye and tell her we had a great season. That was probably the hardest thing knowing her [high school] basketball career is over. It’s a tough thing.

The second hardest thing was the Maroon and Gold Christmas Tournament [at Broad Run]. We lost two in a row and it was kind of a tough situation and it was a lot of things for the kids to think about hearing that it was the first time Millbrook lost two in a row in a long time. It was kind of a tough situation but the next game was Sherando at home and the girls responded.

Q. How do you see next year’s team shaping up?

Barr: I think with Millbrook girls’ basketball we want to be competitive every year. I know what we’ve got coming back and we should be pretty good. The freshman class from what people have told me is pretty good. We’re losing Brenna and she’s tough to replace, but we’ll have some leadership so I’m looking forward to another successful season.

— Compiled by Robert Stocks