Defensive switch helps Western clamp down on Milford Mill, 59-47

No. 8 Doves' early change to 2-3 zone does number on Millers in regional final

3A North girls basketball

March 06, 2004|By Mike Frainie | Mike Frainie,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With host Milford Mill leading by seven points less than four minutes into last night's Class 3A North championship game, Western coach Donchez Graham decided he had seen enough. He called time and switched to a 2-3 zone defense.

The move paid off almost immediately as a taller and more aggressive Western defense wore down the host Millers en route to a 59-47 victory and the regional crown.

The eighth-ranked Doves (22-2) advanced to Thursday's Class 3A state semifinals at UMBC for the first time since the 2000-01 season. They will play either at 7 or 9 p.m.

Bethany Sloat of Western led all scorers with 16 points, while Shawna Scott led Milford Mill with 15 points.

For No. 9 Milford Mill (20-4), the loss ended a run of six consecutive trips to the 3A state championship game, where the Millers have lost all six times.

"It's not really a 2-3 zone," said Graham. "We call it a match-man, and we used it to force them to shoot further and further away from the basket."

With Milford Mill leading 11-4 after the timeout, the Doves began chipping away at the lead. Western took the lead for good at 18-16 on a Sloat layup with four seconds left in the first quarter.

The Doves turned up the pressure in the second quarter, forcing turnovers all over the court and holding the Millers to four points.

Trailing 34-20 at the half, the Millers mounted a comeback. They got as close as eight on two occasions midway through the fourth quarter, but they couldn't close the gap.

"Normally we can shoot other teams out of a zone, but we only had one guard [Scott] who was on tonight," said Milford Mill coach Pam Wright. "We made a lot of unforced errors tonight. I guess it just wasn't meant to be."

"We're a young team, and we came out with the jitters," said Western's Whitney Cunningham. "That zone is our secret weapon, and it worked for us. They couldn't match our size."

Cunningham and her teammates felt like this was a statement game for the Doves.

"Everybody says that county [girls] basketball is better than city basketball," said Sloat, one of two seniors on the Western roster. "I think we made a statement that we deserve some respect."

Graham echoed the sentiment.

"We have seven quality teams in the city, and I think we have the best girls league in the area, period," he said.

For Scott, a junior, the loss was a disappointment.

"We really wanted it, but they shut us down," she said. "After all the success we've had, it feels funny to end the season this early. "

Graham said he hopes his team enjoys the victory, but not too much.

"I told them to enjoy the victory for 10 minutes," he said. "That's all. [This morning] it's back in the gym. We still have work to do."

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