STORY BY JAMES CRABTREE-HANNIGAN
Millikan girls’ basketball stayed unbeaten in Moore League and put itself in the driver’s seat to challenge Long Beach Poly with a 68-39 win over Lakewood on Monday. The Rams blitzed the Lancers with a 23-point first quarter and coasted to the victory, hardly allowing the home team within 15 points after halftime.
“We played pretty determined,” Millikan head coach Lorene Morgan said. “We just have to work to the point where we play four quarters.”
Rams sophomore Vanessa Smith had a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds off the bench, while Lancers star Asia Jordan came alive late for a team-high 13 points.
Millikan raced out to a 23-9 lead after the first quarter, using a trio of 3-pointers and a breakneck pace to prevent Lakewood from getting its footing or establishing a rhythm offensively. The Lancers used two timeouts in the first period to try to stop Millikan’s momentum, but those efforts were mostly futile.
“That start was big. We had a lot of offense,” Morgan said. “In some ways even more importantly, we did a pretty good job of keeping them off the boards. That was the gameplan.”
A main focus of that strategy was Jordan, who makes a living on offensive boards and putbacks. She got her fair share of rebounds, but wasn’t having her best night finishing around the rim, limiting her production.
The Lancers used a balanced attack to put some points on the board in the second quarter, but Millikan wasn’t slowing down and took a 43-26 lead to the locker room. Junior Lesley Garcia drained two more triples, including one at the buzzer, for six of her 14 points before halftime.
Jordan got going after the intermission, scoring her team’s first six points of the second half to get the Lancers some momentum.
“She’s talented; she can go. She’s hard to stay in front of,” Morgan said. “She started getting on a little roll, and we just knew that we couldn’t let that happen.”
Millikan upped the pressure and promptly went on a 11-0 run, forcing consecutive Lancers turnovers in the backcourt. Smith was lethal on the fastbreak all game, and her back-to-back transition lay-ups during the stretch helped put the game away for good.
“She’s a big spark off the bench,” Morgan said of Smith. “She’s got good reach, she gets her hands on a lot of the balls. She can rebound, she can take it to the hole.”
Other than that spurt, the scoring slowed down after halftime, and the Rams cruised to the 68-39 win, dealing Lakewood its first league loss and establishing themselves as the biggest challenger to Poly.
Both teams will be back in action Wednesday, with Millikan hosting the Jackrabbits and Lakewood traveling to Jordan.