Tough defense leads Lady Green Wave

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 1, 2011

NATCHEZ — It wasn’t a secret to Ronnie McMillan that his Cathedral middle school girls basketball team had the chance to be good.

After all, this was the same group that made noise twice in the Natchez AYA basketball league when they were in fourth and sixth grade.

And thanks to some tough defense and solid fundamentals, the Cathedral middle school girls finished the season undefeated with a 14-0 record.

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“It was more than just a good year,” McMillan said. “These kids played together and against each other on the Cathedral AYA teams since fourth grade.

“Tommy Milligan and myself had split Cathedral squads when these girls were in fourth and sixth grade. His squad went undefeated both years, and the only time mine lost each year was when we played them.”

A deep pool of talent to choose from made a huge difference, McMillan said, giving his squad the chance to sub out players without there being a dropoff.

“Everyone could flat out play,” he said. “This year, we started from scratch in August, and practiced a full month working on defense and fundamentals before we ever worked on offense.”

And the results showed immediately when Cathedral opened its season against Bogue Chitto with a 46-10 win. Cathedral shut out Bogue Chitto 26-0 in the first half of that game — and the defensive dominance would only continue.

The Lady Green Wave beat Harrisonburg next 48-10, followed by St. Aloysius 37-13 and 37-18 in their next two games. The defensive prowess continued all the way up to tournament time for Cathedral.

“When we beat Enterprise, a traditionally strong team, 42-33, I knew we had a chance,” McMillan said.

“We went from there to the Catholic tournament in St. Joseph in Madison, and our goal going in was to win it.”

Cathedral had been eliminated in that tournament the previous year after key injuries led to two quick losses for the Lady Green Wave. But Cathedral beat Christ Covenant 36-27 and St. Joseph 37-20 to win the tournament outright.

Cathedral finished up its regular season with a 31-16 win against Bogue Chitto, and McMillan said he had seven different girls lead in scoring throughout the season.

“That illustrates that it was a team effort,” McMillan said. “Other than defense, the main thing we worked on was catching and passing. We’re a come-down-with-the-rebound and throw-it-up-the-court team.”

The tandem of MacKenzie Watts and McKenzie Milligan made steals a regularity, and Akua Kumi and Carleigh Combs provided great defense around the basket, McMillan said.

“Watts and Milligan played front court, and when teams would break the front line, Akua came up and saved us,” McMillan said. “Milligan could pick girls’ pockets clean, and Watts played off her and intercepted the ball.

“Carleigh knew to stay at home, and that allowed the backcourt guards to gamble, go up for passes and things like that. In most games, the teams we played had bigger players, but we knew how to play and play together.”

All but one of his top seven players are now seeing minutes on the varsity girls’ team at Cathedral, and McMillan said he sees more winning still in store for the group.

“If they stay together, and they will, they’ll do great things,” he said. “You never have to get onto them for not trying hard.

“The last district championship for Cathedral was in 1981, and I believe you’ll see this group hang another banner together.”