By Thomas Sellers Jr.
COLLIERVILLE — The ride to the opening night of the 2013 Collierville Dragon Fire Tournament was symbolic to the 2013-14 Millington Lady Trojans.
For years it would take about an hour and half to make the journey from The Millington Star office to the Collierville High School Gymnasium. But this past trip took about 40 minutes with the new Route 385 straight shot.
As I passed the Arlington exits, I was somewhat familiar with the next portion of the two-lane highway. Then came the last route off the highway with the Macon Road exit.
For miles the newly paved, and rarely traveled stretch of road was all new to me. I was scared for a second that I was lost on this new path. But I trusted that if I kept going forward in the direction I needed to and kept reading the green signs I would reach my designation.
So when my eyes say the Collierville/Piperton exit, the rest of my body felt relief and joy. Once I was on Poplar it was time to roll.
This year’s Millington Lady Trojans are on a unknown highway trying to find a familiar road. And these girls are moving in the right direction and will find that stretch of pavement soon and will take off running.
For the team loaded with underclassmen, the green signs and GPS pointing them in the right direction are Head Coach Bruce Marshall, assistant coaches Savannah Grow and Mely Jemmott and senior guard Kendra Richardson.
Those leaders were needed more than ever last Thursday night against the Marion Lady Patriots. Coming across the river from Arkansas, the Lady Patriots were a team loaded with depth, experience, size and speed.
Marion was able to pull away for a 63-27 victory. But the Lady Trojans displayed some signs of growth and potential.
Featuring just one senior in Richardson, Millington has leaned on her at moments so far this season. Richardson has the skills and equipment to handle the challenge. She’s a tall guard with size and speed. The State qualifier in the High Jump can leap with the best of them and her jump shot is improving each game.
But one player cannot do it by his or her self on the hardwood. Richardson knows this and that’s why she has been working patiently with her younger teammates. The senior leader can be spotted giving a kind word to a teammate heading to the gym.
Richardson is encouraging and keeping the layup line upbeat during pregame moments. And during game action she has transformed into a coach on the court.
The investments of Richardson and the Millington coaching staff is paying off. Players like Glenda Garner, Jherika Brown and Gabby Knox have shown improvement from game one.
But that trio was absent against Marion. Marshall has to call on another set of baby faces to help Millington compete. Getting the call against the Lady Patriots were freshmen Traci Clark, Bria Barnes, Marquisha Sanders and Tamia Aldridge.
It was that bunch helping Richardson in the first quarter. Millington was tied 12-12 with Marion after 8 minutes. Falling behind 4-0 early, it was Aldridge who got the Lady Trojans on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws.
Richardson deadlock the score at 4-4 with a jumper. Marion went ahead 8-4 before Aldridge sparked a 8-4 Millington run. Clark made a pair of foul shots and Richardson drained a triple.
But the second quarter belonged to the Lady Patriots. Marion defenders used full court pressure on the young Lady Trojans forcing turnovers. The Lady Patriots outscored Millington 24-6 in the period to open up a big lead.
Marion maintained its advantage throughout the second half to advance in the winners’ bracket. During that last 16 minutes of the game any observer could see the Millington Lady Trojans will be advancing in winners’ brackets in the near future.
There were moments of natural brilliance for the Lady Trojans. A solid corps. is emerging for the future at Millington in Brown, Garner, Sanders, Knox, Aldridge, Clark, Barnes, Jhardae Walker, Tayunna Hickerson and Lindsey Harris. Harris is the only junior in this bunch and she brings championship experience to the team after helping Millington win the 2013 District 14-3A championship.
Players like Aldridge and Sanders have the natural ability to bring more championships to Millington. Aldridge is a post player with the athletic ability to make moves to the rim. She’s aggressive on the boards and is not physically intimidated.
The perfect backcourt compliment to Aldridge will be her fellow freshman Marquisha Sanders. She’s fast and explosive. Once she can control her tempo on the court, Sanders will be a force in the area.
Clark could be her backcourt mate for the future. She displayed moments of attacking the press and making smart basketball decisions.
The Lady Trojans are heading in the right direction. And once they take the right exit, they will be on the road of success. So like this reporter, keep following the right signs and heading in the direction moving forward Lady Trojans. You’ll be there quicker than you’ll ever believe. And the familiar spot of championships will be visited by the girls wearing black and gold.