Cain’s 3-pointer lifts Pioneer girls over Woodgrove, 59-58
WINCHESTER — Lauren Reed and Brenna Cook have been the Millbrook girls’ basketball team’s go-to scorers all season.
However, it was sophomore guard Joneisha Cain who launched the Pioneers into next week’s 4A North Regional tournament with her last-second, winning 3-pointer on Thursday night against Woodgrove.
Cain was open behind the arc and drained her shot with just 2.6 seconds left to play to cap a thrilling comeback by Millbrook in its 59-58 Conference 21 semifinal win against Woodgrove at Casey Gymnasium.
“The play was set up for Lauren or Brenna to shoot the ball but [I knew] I could shoot the ball too if I was open,” said Cain, who made just two baskets in the game. “And I was wide-open, so I just shot it and hoped for the best.”
The Pioneers (20-3) clinched not only a berth in regionals but also a sixth-straight 20-win season.
This victory might have been the most improbable, seeing that Millbrook shot just 25 percent from the field in the first half and trailed Woodgrove (20-4) by 14 at the break.
The Wolverines were still ahead by eight with under a minute left in regulation when the Pioneers capped their wild comeback by draining a trio of 3-pointers and taking advantage of four missed free throws by Woodgrove to move on to tonight’s conference championship game at home against Loudoun County, a 53-35 winner in the other semifinal on Thursday.
“We had confidence the entire game, despite the score,” said Reed, who scored 16 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to lift Millbrook. “We knew that we could come back and were capable of anything if we kept working.
“I think we just blocked out all the [crowd] noise, started playing as a team, and did what we needed to do instead of worrying about everything else that was going on.”
Before making her winning shot, Cain had missed on four of her previous five 3-point attempts and had three points in the game.
“Joneisha usually hits two or three [3-pointers, most games] for us,” Millbrook coach Kevin Barr said. “It [the last play] was really set up for Lauren or Brenna, and we tell [Cain] that it’s going to be open. She knows that when she comes off that screen and she gets the ball in her hands it’s her job to knock it down. And she certainly did. It couldn’t happen to a better person and I’m just so happy to have her be a part of our team.”
Millbrook was again stung by a sluggish start. After Cook opened the scoring with a tough basket inside, Woodgrove scored the next 10 points and led 15-4 after one period. Guard Brooke Basinger was hot from the outside in the first half, and her trio of made 3-pointers and 11 first-half points (she would finish with a team-high 16) helped push the Wolverines out to a 30-16 lead at the break.
The Wolverines had some success with their physical play and being able to force Millbrook (14 first-half turnovers) into bad decisions often. But once Millbrook learned to settle down and start attacking the rim better in the second half, at least the game got more competitive.
“We’re used to digging deep because we usually play better in the second half,” said Cain, as Millbrook shot 57 percent [13 of 23] from the field and 70 percent [14 of 20] from the line over the final two periods. ” Definitely, running [our offense] more, getting open shots, and attacking the basket helped.”
A string of 10 straight points (including six straight by Reed) got the Pioneers back in it, trailing 32-26 with 3:14 left in the third period. Woodgrove still had a seven-point lead heading to the fourth, but eight points from Reed in the period and a defense that held the Wolverines to two made baskets in the third left hope for Millbrook to stage a late comeback.
The Pioneers were scoring at every turn in the fourth, and their total in the period (29 points) would nearly exceed that of the first three periods (30 points) combined.
Woodgrove still appeared in control because it was hitting free throws (23 of 35 overall) and getting to the basket off of dribble penetration for scores. Halle Lynch would score eight of her 15 points in the fourth, but four missed free throws in the final two minutes would come back to haunt the senior guard.
The Wolverines had a 56-48 lead after Lynch (6 of 10 from the line) knocked down a pair with 59 seconds left, but the Pioneers would get a big break for a four-point play. Cook made the first of a two-shot foul, and Casey Ackerman rebounded the miss off the second shot and swung out to Reed, who drained her only made 3-pointer of the game to cut it to 56-52 with 44 seconds left.
After two more missed free throws by the Wolverines, Cook, who had a team-high nine rebounds and scored 10 of her 16 points in the fourth, hit from deep from the top of the key with 26 seconds left, and it was a one-point game.
After Lynch hit a free throw with 19 seconds left, Reed — who also had five rebounds, two assists, and made 6 of 8 free throws — was fouled nine seconds later and hit the first of her two-shot foul. The second shot came off the front and Lynch rebounded.
With 8.1 seconds left, Lynch was again only to make one of two, and Woodgrove had a 58-56 lead. On the inbounds play that followed a Woodgrove timeout, the Pioneers worked it up and the ball found itself in Cain’s hands. Left open, she drained her shot to put Millbrook ahead for the first time since 2-0.
A heave from just past half-court by Basinger at the buzzer hit off the right side of the glass and away, and the Pioneers could celebrate.
In the fourth quarter, Millbrook scored 29 points, making 8 of 12 shots and 10 of 16 free throws. Woodgrove scored 21 itself, but the Pioneers (one turnover in the fourth) at least didn’t give them extra possessions.