By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Saturday night started and ended well for the Munford Lady Cougars.
But in between the Shalyiah Wiggins’ three-pointer that started the game and Robneisha “Bird” Lee’s game-winning layup, Steve Poindexter was trying to figure out a way for his team to overcome the Twin Towers of the Millington Lady Trojans.
Munford was able to send Millington’s Tiara Caldwell to one of the William Osteen Gymansium benches in the fourth quarter with five fouls. As for her tag-team partner Treasure Reading, the Lady Cougars had to deal with her outside shooting and post game all night. But Reading’s effort wasn’t enough to prevent Munford from winning 44-42.
“I don’t think I ever won a game when we were losing 31 minutes and 58 seconds,” Poindexter said. “I told our kids, ‘If we can ever get the lead, we can dictate how they guard us.’ I told them they waited a little too late to get the lead.
“They killed us inside,” he continued. “They have two very good post players. Our rotation was horrible tonight. We had people out chasing who were supposed to be in covering. Our rotations were either non-existant or late. And when you have girls who are that big, you can’t do that. You have to be disciplined. You’re not going to outsize them or out-athlete them down there. You have to be smart about it.”
When the Lady Cougars were chasing the Lady Trojans all over the court, Millington built a 14-6 first quarter lead. Reading got the scoring started for Millington with a bucket to make the score 3-2 in favor Munford.
Then Caldwell sprung into action with a layup giving the lead almost for good. Reading hit a hook shot in the lane making the score 6-3. After Lee tied the game with a three-point play, the Lady Trojans proceeded with a 8-0 run to close out the quarter.
Troi Chestnut hit a bucket regaining the lead for Millington. Caldwell tallied the next six points for the Lady Trojans including a layup from the pass of Reading.
Millington maintained the advantage in the second quarter thanks to Reading’s play in the post. She scored on a put-back basket to make the score 18-11.
After Lee exploded to the rack for a layup, Lady Trojan guard Erin Clark fired a pass to Reading for another two points.
Millington guard Kendra Richardson scored the final bucket for the Lady Trojans in the first half with a floater. Lee and her teammate Kierra Richardson made shots to make the tally 22-19 in favor of Millington at the break.
The game became much closer in the third quarter. Lady Cougars like Lauren Zvolanek, Wiggins and Lee chipped the Millington lead down to one point. Wiggins drained a triple near the end of the third quarter to make the score 32-31.
“We had plenty of opportunities to pack in and settle,” Poindexter noted. “They refused to do that. They kept scrapping and clawing. And that’s typically what we do. I’m glad I had timeouts. They let us hold the ball and we were able to get what we wanted, Bird the ball. She got around the corner and she finished.
Before Bird flew to the rim for the win, the Lady Cougars had to play catch up the entire fourth quarter. Lee tied the game at 34-34 with a three-point play.
Then Reading hit a jumper from the elbow to make the score 36-34. The Chestnut hit a three-pointer giving Millington a 39-34 lead.
Lee answered with four points to trim the Lady Trojans advantage to a point. Reading went back to work grabbing a rebound and going back up for a layup and the score was 41-38. After a Reading free throw, the Lady Trojans were ahead 42-38.
With the score 42-39, Caldwell fouled out with a mintue and 2 seconds remaining. Lee went to the line and made one of two foul shots make the score 42-40.
The Lady Cougars used a full-court trap to force a turnover and Lee ended up with a follow-up basket tying the game once again at 42-42.
Using pressure defense again, the Lady Cougars stole the ball with 37 seconds remaining. After Poindexter called a timeout, Munford’s Kierra Webb held the ball until less than 10 seconds. She gave the ball to Lee.
The senior forward used her speed to beat the Millington defense around the corner for a layup giving Munford the lead with 2 seconds left. The Lady Trojans missed a half-court shot and the Lady Cougars had the victory.
Poindexter said Millington proved they are one of the best teams in the Region and will be a force all January and February.
“Once you get to that point, it’s going to be a dog fight every night,” he said. “You don’t know how things are going to turn out. A lot of people think we’re the best team in our district and they may be the best team in theirs. But you never know come tournament time if you don’t take care of business.
“They are definitely a team we respect,” Poindexter concluded. “We don’t take anybody lightly. But they’re obvisiously a team that can give us trouble with their size.”