The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.
Despite a valiant fourth quarter comeback effort, the Millikan Rams’ season came to close Saturday night in Howard F. Lyon Gymnasium, as No. 2 seed St. Margaret’s Episcopal defeated them, 46-41.
“This last part of the season, we started showing toughness since the first Poly game… the next day’s practice was the best practice the whole season. [The players] were on it, they were laser focused… It showed in our last playoff game because we were determined to do our best, same thing today,” commented Millikan head coach Lorene Morgan on the team’s toughness, grit, and character.
The game started in Millikan’s favor as they won the opening tip, which led to an opening three by junior Saryna Bermudez. After the three, senior Emily Piper followed it up with a nice lay-in. St. Margaret’s aggressive rebounding and inside defense would create limitations for the Rams, as the Tartans gained second chance points off offensive boards and swarmed and stole the ball defensively. With a buzzer beater three by St. Margaret’s Harper Gideons, the Tartans took the first quarter, 14-12.
St. Margaret’s and Gideons continued working and were aggressive on the rebounds. Millikan found themselves getting some second chance opportunities, yet the Rams could not land their shots, which led into a four-minute scoring drought. Millikan’s Ky-Lliyah Clardy ended the drought with a smooth lay-up at 3:50, which brought confidence back to the squad. However, the Tartans would come back right back with three balls to extend their lead. Heading into the locker room, the Tartans led 25-16.
Sloppy transition play was apparent by both teams throughout the game, but it would be most detrimental for Millikan in the third quarter.
“We struggled a little bit early with the pressure. I think we gave up the ball three times in a row and [St. Margaret’s] converted on those three. We also had a difficult time getting out to their shooters at times,” said Morgan on the Rams’ third quarter struggles.
Despite the turnovers and Tartans’ offensive flurry, Millikan stayed resilient and found ways to stay in the game. Piper, seniors Jasmine Hecht and Faith Vergara would find ways to score and keep morale high. The Rams had the looks, yet they just could not find the bottom of the net, with most shots going in-and-out. The third quarter finally ended with St. Margaret’s holding a commanding 42-28 lead.
Backs to the wall, Millikan started firing on all ends. Piper opened up the quarter with tough individual offensive efforts, and the team followed up with sticky defense and rebounds. Vergara and Clardy found the back of the net as well, yet St. Margaret’s just kept the lead out of reach.
Despite outscoring the Tartans 18-4 in the fourth, it was too little, too late for the Rams. St. Margaret’s would move the rock to spread the defense, and they would tick away precious seconds. St. Margaret’s would go on to win 46-41 and advance to Division 3A quarterfinals.
Piper would be Millikan’s leading scorer on the night, with a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Bermudez with eight points and nine rebounds, then Clardy and Vergara with seven points each.
“This is one of the nicest teams I ever had… their character is great, and it has been a real family atmosphere with them. I hope we can continue with that,” concluded Morgan, reflecting on this season while looking ahead to next year. “We will miss our seniors, but we will come back next year better than this. Monday we have off, but Tuesday we will be back getting ready for next year.”