Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year — Millbrook’s Brenna Cook

Posted: March 28, 2014

The Winchester Star

Millbrook senior Brenna Cook is The Winchester Star’s Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Even though it wasn’t too difficult to see how vital Millbrook senior Brenna Cook was to her team’s success on the court, Pioneers first-year head coach Kevin Barr said she was equally as important off of it.

Barr said there were several times during the season when Cook came through with a big assist that didn’t show up in the box score.

“I think what a lot of people didn’t see outside of the team was how much Brenna was willing to help,” Barr said. “We were a young team and whenever someone didn’t have a ride to practice she didn’t hesitate to jump back in her car and head back out to get them. It didn’t matter who it was and it probably happened six or seven times. She’d always contact me and say, ‘I’m going to be a couple minutes late because I’m picking up so-and-so.’ She was kind of nurturing to the younger girls in ways not too many people got to see.”

Cook always displayed a team-first attitude, and her performance on the court proved to be even more valuable, helping the Pioneers notch their sixth straight 20-win season, including an unbeaten record (8-0) in the Northwestern District.

She averaged 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and shot a team-best 39 percent (44 of 112) from 3-point range, earning Northwestern District Player of the Year honors and first team All-Conference 21 and All-4A North Region honors.

With her stellar senior season, Cook is The Winchester Star’s Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.

Although the Pioneers’ season ended with a 72-59 loss at Chancellor in the 4A North Region quarterfinals, Cook said her team put together another solid year.

“I thought we had a successful season,” said Cook, who led the Pioneers in scoring in three of their four playoff games. “We’d liked to have made it farther in the tournament, but our record does show that we had a good season. We definitely were challenging ourselves during the season to dominate the district, so that was a big thing for us. Even though we didn’t get as far as we wanted to we had a young team, so I think it was a successful season.”

The Pioneers opened the year with nine straight wins but then dropped two straight at the Maroon and Gold Classic at Broad Run High School, losing to Yorktown 70-51 on Dec. 27 and dropping another game to John Champe 52-45 on Dec. 28.

Cook said those losses at the Maroon and Gold Classic were probably one of the lowest points of the year for the team.

“It was just tough games for us and we obviously knew looking back that we should’ve won those games,” Cook said. “During the holidays, we weren’t as focused as we should have been because they weren’t district teams and we didn’t consider them as important as we should have.”

Cook said the team responded well though, bouncing back with a 65-27 victory over district-rival Sherando at Casey Gymnasium on Jan. 8.

“After that second loss in that tournament we did kind of come together and regroup,” Cook said. “[Beating Sherando at home] was probably the game that stands out to me the most where we did have intensity and everything just clicked as a team.”

The Pioneers only lost once after that to Turner Ashby before reeling off another nine-game winning streak that was capped by a thrilling 59-58 win over Woodgrove in the Conference 21 semifinals on Feb. 20. Millbrook trailed by 14 at the half and by eight with less than a minute remaining, but Joneisha Cain’s 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds lifted the Pioneers to the victory and clinched a regional berth.

“Another game that stands out for me would probably be the Woodgrove game,” said Cook, who scored 16 points to join sophomore teammate Lauren Reed (21 points) as the only Pioneers in double figures. “It was just a game where we had intensity and we were down by [14 points] after the first half. We just came out determined because we knew if we lost it was going to be our last game.”

One of Cook’s games — a 15-point, 14-rebound performance in a 52-45 win over James Wood on Feb. 6 — stands out for Barr because of how much she focused on rebounding this season.

“She had a double-double with like 14 rebounds and midway through the season she really started stepping up and taking control of rebounding,” said Barr of Cook, who had 131 defensive rebounds and 81 offensive. “We had Liz [McDonald], but besides Liz we didn’t have many people who were going to get on the boards. She took the challenge and stepped up to be the girl to get the other rebounds and it didn’t hurt her scoring which was impressive.”

Cook’s rebounding ability also helped her get to the free-throw line, where she shot 72 percent with a team-high 167 attempts and a team-best 120 made free throws.

Cook began working on her basketball skills when she played in youth leagues and credited her success to all of the great coaches and mentors she’s had along the way during her basketball career, especially her first coach — her father Chris — who coached the Hokies in the Shenandoah County youth league when she first started playing basketball.

“My parents [Chris and Ronda Cook] have been really awesome,” Cook said. “Just my dad being my coach and my mom supporting me in everything. I also want to thank coach [Debby] Sanders, coach Barr, as well as coach Erick Green Sr. — he’s worked with me since middle school and always had my best interest in mind — and Bill Harris [of the AAU Rising Stars] who mentored me throughout. They’ve been big supporters of me.”

Cook will play basketball at Marymount in Arlington next season, and she said she’s looking forward to the challenge of playing in college at the Division-III level.

“Being able to play at the collegiate level is an honor for me,” Cook said. “I need to work on my quickness. At the college level, everyone is there because they’re a good player, so I need to work on my quickness and defense. The speed of the game is much quicker, so I do need to work on that.”

Barr said he thinks Cook will be an asset on and off the court for Marymount.

“I think she’ll fit into Marymount well,” Barr said. “I think she’ll be able to go in and give them good minutes. Who doesn’t want a player who can shoot 39 to 40 percent from 3-point range and still get you rebounds? She’s such a mature girl and that’s a bonus to have with a freshman coming in.”

— Contact Robert Stocks at rstocks@winchesterstar.com

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