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Miller girls rally past Norfolk Christian
By Liz Keller / Scrimmageplay.com contributor
RICHMOND – The Miller girls basketball team is back in a familiar place. After securing back-to-back VISAA Division 3 titles, the Mavericks earned a spot in the championship game again – this time in Division 2 – with a win over Norfolk Christian in the semifinals on Friday night.
But the win didn’t come easy, as Miller rallied from a seven-point deficit to come away with the 44-36 victory at Benedictine High School.
The Mavericks (26-5) will face Cape Henry Collegiate, a winner over Fredericksburg Christian in the other semifinal.
“It was a good, tight game. We had played them earlier, but it was back and forth the majority of the game,” Miller coach James Braxton said. “We’ve been down before five, six points and have come back to win. So we still had the idea that we were going to be OK.”
Things didn’t look OK for the Mavericks in the third quarter, as they saw their three-point halftime lead dissipate. The Ambassadors went on a 9-0 tear fueled by a 3-pointer from Danielle Webster. Norfolk also capitalized on a couple of Miller turnovers during the run.
However, after a quick timeout with 4:57 left in the quarter, the Mavericks got back on track. Whitney Martin nailed a 3-pointer and Ashleigh Claybrooks got the putback off a Taylor Sandidge miss to bring Miller within one. Martin, a 5-9 junior, got a steal and converted the basket underneath as the quarter ended to give the Mavericks some momentum.
“We had to keep playing hard,” Martin said. “We wanted this win bad, so we had to keep fighting. That’s what we had to do – play as a team.”
Added Braxton: “We’d be preaching, ‘get in the passing lane’ when the two guards had the ball, so I felt like we did a good job there. It’s just a team effort – we made some big shots down the stretch and we just stayed together. That’s why we play the schedule the way we play, so it will definitely prepare you for games like tonight.”
Miller immediately tied the game with a long basket from Rachel Odumu to start the fourth quarter. Martin gave the Mavericks the lead with a putback, but a turnover led to an easy basket by Latrice Hunter.
However, that was the only basket of the quarter the Mavericks allowed. Miller pulled away on the strength of solid defense and rebounding as well as a pair of baskets by Claybrooks, including a banked-in jumper with 1:19 to play. Martin, who finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds, went 4 of 4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to keep the Ambassadors at bay.
Claybrooks, who was 6 of 9 from the floor, finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Odumu tallied eight points in the win. Sandidge had three points and three assists.
Norfolk’s talented backcourt duo of Webster and Hunter finished with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Miller plays Cape Henry in the championship game at 3 p.m. today. The Mavericks know they have their hands full with a team that beat them in January in overtime.
“[Saturday] when the ball goes up, anybody has an opportunity,” Braxton said. “So if we come out and play well, we feel like we have just as good an opportunity as anyone else.”