By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Back in November, the Millington Lady Trojans used rebounding and solid defense to keep close with rivals the Munford Lady Cougars.
That night in the William Osteen Gymnasium, Munford’s Gabby Crawford was just a few games into her high school career and the outcome was a Munford 42-31 victory.
Fast forward to Dec. 16, Crawford is now a few weeks into her prep career and Lady Cougars Head Coach Steve Poindexter made a point of emphasis to his team to attack the board and get out on the break in the rematch against Millington.
Snatching rebounds and pushing the ball led to a 58-20 win this time for the Lady Cougars.
“Our focus tonight was transition,” Poindexter noted. “I tell our kids, ‘Look in the mirror. See how athletic you are. See what we’ve got here. We’re missing out on opportunities because we’re stopping ourselves. Plus the ball down the floor and let’s get some transition baskets.’
“It’s obvious we know how to run our half-court stuff,” he continued. “But it’s just a situation to where we’re missing out on opportunities because we’re holding the ball trying to run an offense. We can run our offense if we don’t get a layup. But first let’s see if we can get a layup.”
The Lady Cougars were busy lighting up the Munford Gymnasium scoreboard with layups in the first quarter courtesy of Kierra Richardson, Johnna Jones, Lindsey Owen and Crawford building a 17-4 advantage.
Millington was limited to two Glenda Garner buckets in the first eight minutes with Owen and Crawford controlling the paint area and glass.
“Another point of emphasis tonight, the last game they out rebounded us by 14,” Poindexter recalled. “I think that’s an effort thing. If they did beat us on the boards tonight, it wasn’t by 14 I bet. I thought Deja Potter came in and gave us some good minutes. She’s going to be a good player for us.
“And we need her to step up with Alex tearing her ACL Friday,” he continued. “That’s a big lost for us, she’ll be out for the rest of the year. I think with that happening, overall our kids responded well knowing how important Alex is to our team. They played hard and played much better than we did the first time we played Millington.”
Alex Wherry went down with her knee injury against Dyer County. The senior was a combo forward in Poindexter’s lineup handling some point forward duties and grabbing some rebounds among the post players.
All the Lady Cougars stepped up in their first game without Wherry including point guard Phenicia Howard.
“We boxed out a lot more,” Crawford said. “And Lindsey, Phenicia and me attacked the basket and celled out to get more rebounds.”
The work on the boards limited Millington’s chances to score and the Lady Trojans only got a Shukorea Smith bucket in the second quarter. Munford led 24-6 at halftime.
Coming out of the locker room Crawford took control of the contest taking advantage of some offensive adjust by Poindexter to free her up off the low block.
“We played as team more this time,” Crawford said. “We passed the ball and worked it around. And we looked into the inside for our post players.”
Crawford had 12 points in the third quarter driving to the basket, making a put-back bucket and hitting short range jumpers. The Lady Cougars’ advantage grew to 44-14 entering the fourth quarter.
“I think anybody who has watched us from the beginning of the year until now, she’s getting better and better as we go,” Poindexter said. “You know how high that ceiling is. Her potential, where does it end? It good to see her keep working and keeping the hunger.
“A lot of the time, you have kids who get these opportunities,” he added. “There aren’t a lot of freshmen who get the opportunity she’s getting right now. When they do, they get complacent and take for granted the opportunity. You see them get stuck. She’s not getting stuck. She’s continuing to work and improve. That’s a positive.”
Crawford said her senior corps of Wherry, Richardson, Howard and Owen have been by her side since she arrived on campus getting her mind and body ready for high school basketball in West Tennessee.
“They made me a lot better,” she concluded. “They always bring me up when I’m down. We always say, ‘Next play.’ My partner Lindsey and I always work together in practice. She makes me a better player.”