By Thomas Sellers Jr.
CORDOVA — Walking off the Cordova Gymnasium court Feb. 19 with her MVP award in hand, Millington Lady Trojan Basketball standout Tiara Caldwell felt like a Baltimore Raven.
With her team triumph over the Arlington Lady Tigers 53-39, the senior center compared the Lady Trojans winning the 2013 District 14-3A Girls Basketball Tournament to a certain game played on the first Sunday in February every year.
“I don’t even play football and I feel like we just won the Super Bowl,” she said. “It was a great experience. I mean we haven’t been here in three years. It means a lot to us. We feel like we have accomplished something. We feel like we can go further.”
The championship gave Millington a No. 1 seed in the Region 7-3A Tournament and a home game in the first round against Jackson North Side of District 13-3A. The title was also the first for the program since 2010 when current UT-Martin star Jasmine Newsome led the Lady Trojans.
“(District 14-3A champs) sounds really good,” Millington Head Coach Bruce Marshall said. “When we were talking before the ball game, we talked about how the district championship is supposed to be in Millington, that it was time to bring it back. It has been gone for two years now. And it was just time to bring it home where it belongs.”
The plaque’s road back to Flag City seemed in jeopardy early on with Millington holding on to a 14-12 lead after one quarter.
Then the Lady Trojans worked the ball inside to Caldwell to create a nine-point lead. Treasure Redding got the offense started hitting a jumper to give Millington a 16-12 lead.
Then Redding used her passing skills to locate Caldwell in the post for a layup making the tally 18-12. After a Lady Tiger bucket, Caldwell went back to work in the post hitting a shot off the glass.
With Millington ahead 21-16, Lady Trojan guard Kendra Richardson displayed Millington’s outside game by hitting a three-pointer. After a Caldwell foul shot, the Lady Trojans were ahead 25-16.
With the score 27-18 late in the first half, Richardson found herself with the ball. The junior guard launched a triple as the clock was running down. The ball circled the rim and fell through the net giving the Lady Trojans a 30-18 halftime lead.
Just when it seemed the Lady Tigers were tamed, Arlington came out of the locker room with a 10-2 run to make the score 32-28.
Marshall called a timeout to settle his crew of Richardson, Caldwell, Redding, Erin Clark and Seymon Taylor.
The veteran group returned to the floor and responded with a 9-2 run of its own. Redding sparked things with a jumper. After a Taylor free throw, the Arlington defense lost Caldwell in the paint allowing her to hit an uncontested layup.
Caldwell made the score 39-30 with another basket in the post. Then Redding showed another part of her all around game by putting the ball on the floor, driving to the rim for a layup making the score 41-30.
That was the score heading into the fourth quarter. The bucket by Arlington that made the score 37-30 midway in the third quarter was their last points until the 4:43 mark in the fourth period.
Meanwhile the patient offense of the Lady Trojans made the score 43-30. After Arlington finaly hit a shot, Millington outscored the Lady Tigers 10-7 down the stretch to earn the championship.
“I kind of wanted to sub a little bit there at the end,” Marshall acknowledged. “Then I said, ‘Naw, these kids have been through all stuff back in November and December. They stuck with it and grew as players. They came together and deserve the moment.’
“I was not going to pull them out,” he continued. “They deserve the moment to end the ball game the way they started by playing hard and being out there together.”
The seniors Caldwell, Redding, Clark, Taylor and Troi Chestnut helped to bring back the district title to Millington. And for second-year Coach Marshall the title means a lot to him but it validates the hard work of his players all season.
“I’m just proud of the kids and how they came together,” he concluded. “As we know, the season started off ugly. We were 0-7 at one point. We are just now one game over .500. We’re 15-14. And it’s never about me. It’s always about the kids and getting them as far as we can get them every year. Our goal still is to go to Murfreesboro.”
Caldwell was named MVP of the tournament and teammates Clark and Redding joined her on the All-Tournament team.
The Millington Lady Trojan’s old foe of foul trouble paid a visit to the William Osteen Gymnasium tonight. And with starters Kendra Richardson and Tiara Caldwell on the bench in the first half of the Region 7-3A Girls Basketball Tournament first round contest, the visiting Jackson North Side Lady Indians were in position to pull off the upset leading 31-27 at halftime. The Lady Indians turned up the intensity to pull off the 61-53 upset advancing to the Regional Semifinals at Brighton next week. The District 14-3A champion Lady Trojans had their season come to an end.
With their full aresenal of players, Millington was ahead 14-10 in the first quarter. Then Caldwell, a UT-Martin signee, drew her second foul with a minute and 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
An Erin Clark jumper at the buzzer gave the Lady Trojans a 16-15 lead after one quarter.
Millington guard Seymon Taylor helped her team take a 26-21 advantage hitting a jumper and driving baseline for a basket. Then her teammates Clark and Katie Dupree hit buckets to achieve the 5-point lead. The Lady Indians closed out the first half on a 10-1 run to take the lead for good. JNS led 44-38 after three quarters. And in the fourth quarter the Lady Indians reached a 10-point lead twice. Millington cut the deficit to six points at 51-45, but JNS closed out the contest outscoring the Lady Trojans 10-8 to advance.