By Thomas Sellers Jr.
ARLINGTON – What a difference a month makes.
As holiday decorations were being taken down, people were sporting new gifts and the New Year’s celebrations ceased, basketball experts were wondering, ‘What’s up with the Millington Trojans?’
The team picked in the preseason to win District 14-3A were under .500 and found itself having to comeback in several games just to suffer defeat.
“In December we were real slow coming out of the blocks,” Millington Head Coach Bruce Marshall said. “Since we’ve gone to pressing a lot more in the first half, our intensity has picked up to where we’re getting off to better starts. That’s probably my fault. We should have been pressing more all season.’
The Lady Trojans’ press was on display Jan. 29 in the Arlington Gymnasium. Millington used defense and a balance scoring attack to remain unbeaten in district play with a 60-44 win over the Arlington Lady Tigers.
“I think they’re playing so much better,” Marshall said of his team. “They’re playing together. They’re looking for each other, different players are stepping up and hitting shots. Right now, I hope I don’t jinx this, they’re fun to watch right now.’
Millington point guard Kendra Richardson said it is the cohesion that helped the Lady Trojans improve to 6-0 in the league.
She tallied 12 points while teammate Treasure Redding lead the way with 14 points. Two other Lady Trojans reached double figures with Erin Clark scoring 11 and Seymon Taylor hitting 12 points. UT-Martin signee Tiara Caldwell was a bucket away from double figures with 8.
Millington jumped out to a 16-5 lead applying pressure to the young Lady Tiger guards. With Millington ahead 4-3, the Lady Trojans used full court pressure to go on a 9-0 run.
Caldwell got things started with a bucket in the paint and a pair of foul shots. Then Richardson brought the ball upcourt and hit Redding with a laser pass for a layup making the score 12-3. Richardson’s foul shot made the Millington advantage double figures at 13-3.
“Working together, communicating as a team and less turnovers,” Richardson said have been the keys to Millington’s turnaround. “We’re playing as one.”
That unity continued to the buzzer concluding the first quarter when Clark forces an Arlington ball handler into the waiting arms of Taylor. The senior guard picked the Arlington guard’s pocket and raced to the other end of the court for a layup making the score 16-5 after one.
The Millington balance attack continued in the second quarter with buckets from Redding, Clark and another Taylor steal leading to a layup. When Lady Trojan Katie Dupree hit a jumper Millington was ahead 28-16.
Redding closed out the first half with four points helping the Lady Trojans take a 36-20 lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, Richardson ran the show from her No. 1 position helping Millington increase its lead to 49-30.
“It’s a big responsibility but I don’t make it as big as it has to be,” Richardson said of running point. “I just want us to have a good season. I want the seniors to be excited their final year. I just do whatever I can for my seniors.”
To conclude the third quarter Richardson put her body on the line being fouled in the paint by Lady Tiger post players. But at one point she was able to make a steal and hit a layup.
Although the Lady Trojans were outscored 14-11 in the final period, Millington had victory locked up, and the win assured them of the top spot in the district tournament.
“It feels great,” Richardson concluded. “We’re scaring people. We’ve just got to keep playing hard so we can keep our spot. This team can be better than what we are if we just keep working together, keep our heads up and communicate. We have to play as a team and a family on the court.”