Millington evidently learned a lot from a regular season full of adversity, as the Cardinals’ four wins from this season include a a current three-game winning streak following Wednesday’s 43-35, come-from-behind win over Montrose in a Division 3 girls’ basketball district semifinal at Millington High School.
The Cardinals (4-17) needed to overcome a 25-15 halftime deficit, which they did by outscoring the Rams (5-16) 28-10 in the second half. Senior guard Leah Denome was the leading contributor with 15 of her game-high 21 points coming in the second half. She also had seven steals and four rebounds.
“We said after the regular season ended that we were going to make our run in the postseason,” said Denome. “I’m not ready to be done, and this team’s not ready to be done.”
The Cardinals were trailing 14-10 after the first quarter, and were then outscored 11-5 in the second.
“I thought we could play them man-to-man and we’re mainly a zone(-defense) team,” said Millington coach Christian Selich. “It didn’t work well enough early, so then we dropped into a zone for a bit, and that didn’t help us at all because we didn’t rotate well off of it and they hit some big triples.
“Then we went back to a man defense for the rest of the first half and all of the second, and it helped us tremendously,” he added. “It was just a matter of us starting to hit some shots, and Leah Denome hit a couple of big triples in the fourth, Trinity Fessler gave us some good energy off the bench that we desperately needed, and we got a couple big steals and assists and went from there for a great second-half finish.”
The halftime intermission paid dividends for her team, said Denome.
“We talked in the locker room about not playing down to their level,” she said. “Our passing and everything else got better once we started playing together as a team.
“I’m really proud of the way we finished.”
After outscoring the Rams 10-6 in the third quarter to cut their deficit to 31-25 entering the final eight minutes, Millington outscored them 18-4 the rest of the way to put an exclamation point on the win.
Anika Sykes added eight points for Millington, Madi Hahn had six points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Austin Palmer pulled down 10 rebounds for the Cardinals.
Millington’s first win of the season came against one of its Tri-Valley East rivals in Bridgeport, and the win looks even better now with the Bearcats having upset both Caro and defending district champion Birch Run in its first two games to reach the finals of the Division 2 Frankenmuth district against the host Eagles.
“We’ve faced tough teams all year,” said Selich. “I know it didn’t necessarily show in our win/loss column, but you could see the results in our practices and games that we were progressively getting better.”
Selich added that watching Millington’s boys’ team win a district title served as inspiration for his team’s run to the finals.
The Cardinals squared off with New Lothrop (17-4) in the district finals late Friday after The Advertiser went to press. Please see Wednesday’s paper for follow-up coverage.
“We love March Madness,” said Selich. “New Lothrop’s got a great team, but we’re going to give them everything we have. It’s going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Confidence is key for her team as it entered Friday’s district finals, said Denome.
“We know how good they are. Hopefully we can play up to their level, because this performance gives us a lot to be encouraged about,” said Denome of her expectations.
The Hornets reached the finals with a 57-48 win over Reese (19-3).
Adam Smith is sports editor for The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com.