Pioneer girls hold off Pats
Posted: December 12, 2012
WINCHESTER — A couple of weeks ago, Millbrook girls’ basketball coach Debby Sanders stressed that the most important opinion she’s going to have about her team is the one she’ll have in February when her Pioneers are preparing for the postseason.
Nights like Tuesday are why Sanders is glad December is not yet halfway over.
In its first game since it saw its state record 84-game winning streak snapped, Millbrook led for the last 28-plus minutes in a 60-55 win over Washington (W.Va.) Tuesday, but the Pioneers left Casey Gymnasium knowing they still have plenty of work to do in order to be the team they want to be.
“It’s peaks and valleys,” said Sanders, whose team was up 60-47 with two and a half minutes to go. “You can’t fault their heart, and you can’t fault their pride. They’re working as hard as they can.
“But they have these mental lapses where they just don’t do what they know how to do and what we work on every day. It’s really hard when you know that they’re giving you what they got. The IQ just needs to improve. The court awareness just needs to improve. It’s time, [we just need] time. You know the old cliche that there’s no such thing as an ugly win. We’ll take a ‘W’ obviously, but we’ve got to do a better job.”
The Pioneers (5-1) — fresh off a 44-42 loss to Battlefield in the final of the Battlefield Tournament Saturday — definitely had their struggles. They shot 30.9 percent from the field (22 of 71), had 21 turnovers, and were outrebounded 29-16 in the second half.
But Millbrook did pick it up when it needed to, and its ability to start off the second quarter strong — after Sanders loudly addressed the team during the first quarter break — and end it strong went a long way toward helping the Pioneers build the edge they needed to emerge victorious against the Patriots (1-4).
Leading 15-14, senior guard Ashley Goodman (11 points) hit a 3-pointer 33 seconds into the second quarter, and another bucket from Goodman just 1:06 later was the finishing touch of a 9-2 run that put the Pioneers up 23-16.
“[Sanders said we needed] more intensity,” said junior forward Brenna Cook, who led the Pioneers with 23 points and seven rebounds. “Keeping the intensity up, recognizing what we do in practice, and doing what we do in practice. We do everything so well in practice, and we just need to show it in the game.”
Washington settled down for the next four minutes, but the Pioneers put on another big spurt to end the half to get some separation. With the score 30-24, Goodman fed Cook after a steal for a layup, and a Cook bucket closed a 7-2 run after Elizabeth McDonald grabbed an offensive rebound to send the Pioneers into halftime up 37-26. Millbrook grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the first half, which helped the Pioneers get numerous second-chance points.
Spurred on in part by some rebounding drills in the locker room at halftime, Washington picked up its play in the second half, but couldn’t make a dent until it was too late. The Patriots committed 22 turnovers, shot 26 of 68 (36.7 percent) from the field and committed 22 turnovers.
“We dug ourselves in a hole early, and we couldn’t dig ourselves out,” Patriots coach Charity Huff said. “Our shots weren’t falling tonight, and we didn’t box out and rebound [in the first half] as well as I would have liked to have seen. But for us to come out in the fourth quarter like we did showed what we were made of.”
As Sanders said, Millbrook will take the physical win, but the Pioneers need to feel that they’re winning mentally too.
“We don’t anticipate, and when we react, we react late,” Sanders said. “We’ve got to learn how to have that mental toughness for 32 minutes.”
At the very least, the Pioneers didn’t let their rare loss Saturday snowball into another one.
“We take it one game at a time,” Goodman said. “Everybody has to lose eventually. We moved on from it, today was a new day, and we just came ready to play the game.”
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1