By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The Jason Nichols Era, year one, was on hiatus for almost a month.
Since a 62-41 victory at Bolivar Central on Dec. 18, the momentum of the Lady Trojans came to a halt because of COVID-19 concerns and cancellations. Coach Nichols team full of underclassmen reached a crossroad in season one under the new coach. They could get lazy over the holidays and come into 2021 sluggish. Or the girls could be accountable and stay on the road of progression heading into the Jan. 12 matchup against the Haywood Lady Tomcats in the William Osteen Gymnasium.
“We just kept getting into the gym when they allowed us to,” Nichols recalled. “When they closed us down, I sent out the text, ‘Please do something individually.’ We got in here Saturday and we did a two-a-day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then we came back from 5 to 8 p.m. We did that Saturday and Sunday.”
The time together in the gym came in handy with Millington erasing a three-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to prevail 61-54 over the Lady Tomcats.
“All I know is a month ago, if it got tough for us, we would have quitted,” Nichols acknowledged. “I see the growth. Layups and missed free throws, I can correct that. Keep shooting them correctly, you’ll make them. But this big win, props go out to the girls.
“I had some juniors step up Micaiah Halliburton, Jerilynn Richardson, Keria McGhee and Jontavia Bonner did what I asked them to do. They’re older kids and they led. When it got down to the stretch in the fourth quarter, we still looked like we were fresh. I looked over there and I decided let’s go full-court pressure and let’s pick up some more (points). We’re building and we’re just trying to get better and better each day.”
Millington appeared to be ready to run away with this District 15-2A contest jumping out 8-1 after a Bonner basket. Haywood fought back to make the score 9-8 in favor of the Lady Trojans. The Lady Trojans closed out the first quarter on a 10-1 run to lead 19-12 entering the second quarter. Halliburton score in the paint twice during that stretch with a fast-break bucket and a layup. Then her teammate Bailey Boone made the score 19-12 with a put-back basket.
Haywood clawed back again to make the score 22-20 in the second quarter in favor of Millington. McGhee and Halliburton traded baskets with the Lady Tomcats to deadlock the game at 26-26 after 16 minutes of action.
Haywood won the third quarter 16-13. Millington head a 39-35 lead late in the period when the Lady Tomcats closed the quarter on a 7-0 run.
The Lady Trojans faced a 42-39 deficit entering the final 8 minutes. Halliburton quickly tied the game at 42-42 with a three-point play. Boone regain the lead for the Lady Trojans at the 6:20 mark with a bucket.
The Lady Trojans would remain on top for the rest of the game using a combination of full-court pressure and fast-break buckets.
“They can do it,” Nichols said he learn about his girls. “You have to bite at them. They want you bite. They want me to get very aggressive and stay on them that way they’ll come out an play,” he added jokingly.
“But I did learn this, the saying I use in practice, ‘Don’t be built to quit,’” he concluded. “They showed me tonight they were not built to quit. They kept fighting and fighting and we came out victorious. We made a few more layups than our opponent. I’m just happy for us to be playing.”