Pioneers run all over Jefferson in 77-35 rout
Posted: December 5, 2012
Special to The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Different team, same results.
The graduation of a trio of top-flight players has not given any indication just yet that the Millbrook girls’ basketball team is about to slow down.
Three-time Group AA Player of the Year Courtni Green, now at Delaware, and all-Region II performers Sara Mead and Alisha Mobley are long gone, but players like junior transfer Brenna Cook and senior holdovers Brooke Borlie and Ashley Goodman are doing just fine leading a virtually new group of regulars that still have Millbrook winning big.
The Pioneers had no trouble notching the program’s 83rd straight win on Tuesday night, posting a 77-35 romp over Jefferson (W.Va.) in James Casey Gymnasium to go to 3-0 on the season.
Millbrook is expected to get a test this coming weekend in the Battlefield Tournament, and its matchup with defending Group A, Division 2 champ George Mason on Friday might leave the long-time run at greatness in jeopardy.
“That [winning] streak is not our goal,” said Millbrook coach Debby Sanders, who has led her team to three straight state championships. “Our goal is to be in the playoffs, come February, and do well in our district. Whatever happens, happens. I put us back in this tournament for a reason and that is to see what quality competition is like and to learn something from it.”
Even after just three games, Sanders might have a go-to scorer the Pioneers can lean on. Cook showed a solid touch from outside and the ability to score quickly on the block, putting up 20 points in the first half and finishing the game with a career-high 31 points.
A double-digit scorer her first two years at Central (Woodstock), where she also was an all-Bull Run District pick, Cook showed a confidence to take 3-point shots and made 7 of 11 from behind the arc.
“She’s starting to learn [our system],” Sanders said. “They used her more in the post, but we like to swing her more outside and she’s getting more confident doing that. You know, it’s a luxury, because we can put her back inside where she’s very experienced and can do a lot of good things around the basket. But we want to take advantage of her shooting ability and improve her ball-handling too.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for the Pioneers is a knack for forcing turnovers and getting runouts on the other end. The game was tied at 2-2 before a free throw from freshman Elizabeth McDonald with 6:06 left sent Millbrook ahead for good. The Pioneers would close the first period on a 21-0 run and two timeouts called by the winless Cougars (0-4) could not prevent the game from getting out of hand before the start of the second period.
Getting extra possessions keyed the early romp. Jefferson turned the ball over 12 times in the first period, leading to nine Millbrook points. The Pioneers stayed active in their zone defense and made things happen, limiting the Cougars to one field goal over the first eight minutes.
A somewhat high-tempo team that preferred playing man last season, the Pioneers have incorporated a new look with a variety of zone defenses, daring opponents to beat them from outside. Jefferson could not hit from anywhere in the first half, going six minutes without a made basket in the second period and making just three field goals total in the first half.
Besides doing a good job to score from outside on spot-up shooting, Cook, who scored 11 points in the first period and nine in the second, said the Pioneers just tried to be as active as they could on defense to limit what damage the Cougars could do.
“We’re trying to stay aggressive on defense,” Cook said. “Millbrook has been known for being aggressive on defense and getting after the ball. So that has probably been our biggest [goal] — to carry on that tradition of tough defense, stopping the ball, so we can get easier baskets and not force things on offense.”
Lots of players got involved in the first half. Borlie was tough underneath, scoring 10 of her 14 points and grabbing nine of her 10 rebounds in the first half. Reserve guard Robyn Reed slashed to the basket to score all nine of her points, and Goodman did not get down when she could not hit shots (0 for 8 in the first half and 1 for 11 in the game) by passing to the open shooter and collecting seven of her game-high 12 assists to lead Millbrook out to a 43-9 lead by the break.
Still, no one had the kind of first half like Cook displayed. The 5-foot-10 forward also had four of her eight rebounds, four of her five steals, and all three of her assists in the first half. Her 21 points in a 13-point win over Heritage on Saturday night were needed, and another high-producing effort in the box score will likely catch the attention of other teams in the Northwestern District.
“I’d have to give some credit to my teammates for scoring that much,” Cook said of her right-on scoring night against Jefferson. “Good passes, running through the offenses we’ve gone over, and I guess I happened to be on tonight. I mean, it’s the team that’s helping me along.”
Two 3-pointers in a span of less than a minute early in the third period put Cook past her previous high of 25 points, set at Central last season. She got her final two baskets with her seventh 3-pointer, then off a drive at the 5:21 mark of the fourth, before leaving for good with just under two minutes left in the game.
Two straight baskets by Borlie had the Pioneers out in front 55-14 with 5:21 left in the third period, but the final 13 minutes turned into a give and take with Jefferson.
As it did throughout the game, Jefferson pushed the ball at every turn. With nothing left to lose, the Cougars started converting some of the shots they rushed and stayed with the Pioneers for the final period and a half.
The Pioneers only outscored the Cougars 16-15 in the third period and turned the ball over nine times in the quarter. Though the outcome was hardly in danger, Millbrook's turnover total was probably a bit higher (21 for the game) than usual in a lopsided win.
Carrying five freshmen and three sophomores on a 12-player roster and having several veteran reserves stepping into starting roles and seeing more quality minutes, Sanders knows that there will be more than a few empty possessions over the course of the young season.
“I’ve been saying [from the start] that there’s going to be peaks and valleys,” said Sanders, who has also had to rest senior forward Ky Rooks (injured knee). “I mean, we’ve got a lot of young kids who are trying to learn a lot of different things. We like to run multiple offenses and defenses, and we’re working on some new stuff. I think there are moments when we look really good, we do some things well. Then, we’ll make some mistakes, get down on ourselves, and we’ll put too much pressure on ourselves, the freshmen do. And they’re trying. They work hard and want to succeed, and that’s half the battle at this level.”
Two newcomers helped Millbrook close out the final eight minutes well, with sophomore Mia Vandertoorn putting in all five of her points and freshman Amanda Hayton scoring four.
The Pioneers won the board battle 47-36, getting eight rebounds from both Cook and Goodman and six from McDonald. Millbrook also collected 21 steals off Jefferson’s 31 turnovers. Goodman’s six led the way.