By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Millbrook knew how important a fast start was in its game against Sherando on Tuesday night.
When the two girls basketball teams met earlier this season, a slow start proved costly for the Pioneers. Millbrook didn't let it happen twice as the Pioneers stayed right with the Warriors at the start and used a big second quarter to help pull out a 64-60 Northwestern District victory. The Warriors won the first meeting 50-47, and the two teams are now tied for first in the district.
In the first game, the Warriors built an early 18-3 lead and hung on for the win.
"The most important thing we've been focusing on was coming out hard in the first quarter and we did that much better," Millbrook junior Brenna Cook said. "We got ourselves in a hole last time, and fortunately we didn't do that tonight. We came out strong and ready to play."
The Pioneers used a box-and-one on Sherando freshman and top scorer Lauren Reed for much of the game, forcing other players to have to step up for Sherando.
Early on the Warriors (9-10, 5-1 Northwestern) were fine as 3-pointers by Erin Magalis, Audra Sites and Heidi Brown helped Sherando take a 15-8 lead. However, the Pioneers clawed their way back and used a huge second quarter to take a big lead.
A 14-3 run helped give Millbrook a 26-18 lead with 3:07 left in the first half. Cook had six points during the run to lead the way.
Sherando pulled to within six on a basket by Reed with 1:55 left in the second quarter, but the Pioneers responded with a 9-0 run to end the first half. Cook and Brooke Borlie combined for all nine points during the spurt.
Sherando would not go away quietly. The Warriors started the third quarter with a 20-6 run to cut the lead to one. Things got heated between the two teams over midway through the quarter. Borlie and Reed were both given technicals after an altercation between the two.
"It's basketball," Borlie said. "Things get intense. You just gotta stay classy."
After the technical fouls, Reed drained a 3-pointer from NBA range and was later fouled taking a 3-pointer. She made all three free throws to tie the game at 45-45.
"I was real proud of how our girls competed," Sherando coach Kevin Reed said. "They did a great job. They're a great group of young kids, who have really never been in this situation before."
A steal and layup by Millbrook's Robyn Reed and a free throw by Ky Rooks gave Millbrook a 48-45 lead, before Lauren Reed's layup at the third-quarter buzzer cut the lead to one.
Millbrook (15-2, 5-1 Northwestern) continued to hold the lead in the fourth quarter until back-to-back baskets by Lauren Reed and Brown gave Sherando a 58-56 lead with 4:17 left in the game. It was Sherando's first lead since early in the second quarter. It would also be the Warriors last lead of the game.
"They went on a little bit of a run, but we just kept calm and focused," Cook said. "That's one of the best things to come out of this game is that we stayed calm. We stayed focused on our goal to win the game and fortunately we did."
Borlie hit two free throws to tie the game with 3;44 left, and then scored inside the paint to give Millbrook a 60-58 lead with 2:27 remaining.
A free throw by Mia Vandertoorn extended the lead to three with 1:33 left in the game. Sherando missed two 3-pointers in the final minute and each team turned the ball over several times. Cook then sealed the win with two free throws with 14 seconds left.
Cook was 0 for 3 in the first half from the foul line, but she drained them when her team needed it the most.
"I just had the mentality that the next one's going in," Cook said of her free throws. "You just have to tune everything out, and just concentrate on the next shot."
Brown had 18 points to lead the Warriors, while Lauren Reed had 16. Erin Magalis added 10 for Sherando. The Warriors have a young squad with no seniors, and a combined nine freshman and sophomores, and Kevin Reed said it was a great experience for his team.
"We're still growing as a team," he said. "I would have loved to have won this game, for the girls to have won this game, but I think there was a lot to be proud of. I'm happy with the effort they gave and that's all you can ask for as a coach."
Borlie led the Pioneers with 19 points and 15 rebounds, while Cook added 18. The win keeps the Pioneers' home winning streak going. Millbrook, the three-time defending state champions, has not lost a home game since 2008.
"I think we treat every game the same, but a district win is awesome, especially after our loss [to Sherando last time]," Borlie said. "We wanted to make sure that we proved ourselves, and came back and win it so we have a chance to get the regular season district title."
Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org