MILLBROOK - Taking notes during the third quarter might’ve felt a little like transcribing the hook from Rihanna’s hit “Umbrella.”
Ella. Ella. Ella. Ella.
It was one of those proverbial, "When it rains it pours..." stretches for the Millbrook girls basketball team, which struggled Friday through a mistake-filled first half, marked by turnovers and poor shooting. Ella Wilson offered them cover in the third quarter.
The point guard scored all 12 of the Blazers’ points in the period, erasing a deficit and leading them to a 41-34 win over Franklin D. Roosevelt High School.
“She’s a tough-minded kid and a team player who’s always driven to win,” Millbrook coach Adam Peek said of Wilson, a junior who had 16 points and four steals. “She’s not afraid to step up in a pressure situation.”
Wilson demonstrated that as a freshman, when she led a second-half comeback to win the Section 9 Class C final.
A season opener wouldn’t typically be considered a pressure situation, but some ancillary facts contributed to this evening feeling like something more.
It was the first time the teams played before an audience since March 2020, when COVID-19 first disrupted the world, and Millbrook players admitted there were some “nerves” and “anxiousness” early about having a home crowd again.
Not to mention, the Blazers have lofty goals — expectations, even. When the pandemic prompted the cancellation of all scholastic sports 20 months ago, Millbrook was readying for a regional final and was among the state championship favorites.
“I remember that day so well, when we found out the season was cancelled,” Wilson said. “I was standing there shocked… me and (teammate) Natalie Fox got to the car and we were crying.”
Basketball last season was delayed until February and the schedule in Section 9 condensed to a few games, with no playoffs. Millbrook went 5-1, but the absence of fans, the challenges of COVID protocols, and the abrupt ending was something "I hated," Wilson said, especially following the disappointment of the previous winter.
Despite the uncontrollable factors, that missed opportunity in 2020 still is lamented and this season, which figures to be the closest to normal since then, is one they hope will be a make-up. Of course, the championship aspirations remain.
“There’s a lot of optimism and confidence here,” said Beth Bosan, who scored 10 points. “We think we can make it to states if we work hard and play at our highest level.”
Their performance in the opener certainly wasn’t that and it would have been disheartening, Bosan admitted, if they had to pay for it with a loss. As well, the Blazers managed a victory without standout Emily Grasseler. The forward missed the game with a knee injury that Peek said isn't expected to be season-ending.
But Wilson outscored Roosevelt, 12 to 5, in the third quarter and staked Millbrook to a 32-28 lead entering the fourth.
"We were down and making a lot of mistakes, but it was still a close game," she said. "I was just bringing the ball up and seeing the openings."
Wilson's free throw tied it at 25 and she gave them the lead for good with a pull-up jumper from the elbow with 2:39 left in the period. Her three-point play on a put-back pushed the lead to 30-26.
“She’s a great point guard,” Fox said. “She sees the floor really well and she’s a passer, but she knows when she has to take over and start scoring. We absolutely needed that from her tonight.”
Roosevelt pulled within 37-34 in the fourth quarter on Yadira Smith’s floater with 6:14 remaining, but Fox and Kaleigh Tompkins answered with baskets that created the margin with 4:52 left. The teams then went scoreless during an extended sequence of turnovers and misses.
Madison Harkenrider, Tompkins and Fox each had five points for the Blazers.
Smith led Roosevelt with 13 points, and Nkira Awake added nine points and was stellar defensively. Peek lauded the play of the "strong, physical forward" who gave Millbrook's offense fits under the basket. Alexandra Enkler hit two 3-pointers in the second quarter, the second of which gave the Presidents a 21-14 lead.
“When they say, ‘It’s the first game,’ it’s really the first game and these are some of the things that might happen,” Peek said. “Roosevelt plays full-court with high pressure and that caused us to be a little sloppy.
"We committed too many turnovers early, and in the second half we did better against the press, but we didn’t shoot well. We have a lot of work to do.”
What kept them from getting soaked this time, though, was that figurative umbrella.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Girls basketball: Wilson erupts in third, lifts Millbrook over Roosevelt