By Brian Paglia
By the end of its 58-37 victory over Riverwood in the girls championship game of the Eagle's Landing Christian Academy Hooptacular basketball tournament Monday, Mundy's Mill had finally invigorated the parcel of fans behind its bench. With the final score secure with 53.6 seconds left in the game, coach Lonnie Farmer took his players out of the game to a standing ovation.
Earlier, the crowd expressed its frustration with every missed fast-break layup and short putback by the Lady Tigers (7-6, 2-4 in Region 4-AAAAA). Farmer expressed his frustration by calling a timeout in the third quarter after the Lady Raiders went on a 9-0 run to pull within 26-25. But Mundy's Mill outscored Riverwood 17-7 through the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, capitalizing on Riverwood turnovers forced by the Lady Tigers defensive pressure.
"I just told them we had to play with more intensity," Farmer said. "We started relaxing, thinking we already had the game in the bag. I just told them to go out there and play harder, that's all."
"We hustled and played good defense," Junior guard Tandrea High added. "We just played hard."
Mundy's Mill had struggled to control Riverwood forwards Shannel Wright (11 points) and Jennifer Nwokocha (13 points), who combined for 16 points in the first half. So Farmer turned to two forwards off his bench, Charmeyce Buck and Taylor Britt, to stymie Wright and Nwokocha. Neither was as effective in the second half, combining for just eight points and seeming physically worn out.
"That's what you need off your bench," Farmer said. "You need a spark."
The Lady Tigers found its spark from a familiar source in High. Mundy's Mill has turned to High often this season, who scored 32 and 35 points in consecutive games earlier this season, as it grows with a group that had just three players returning with varsity experience.
Brianna McQueen added 10 points. Kristian Scott scored nine, including a putback that punctuated a 13-0 run by Mundy's Mill that extended its lead to 43-32 and forced Riverwood coach Leigh Hudson to call a timeout. But it was High that ignited Mundy's Mill after being down 32-30 in the third quarter. She began to drive at will against Riverwood, scoring 15 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to earn tournament MVP honors.
"She's the heart and soul of our team," Farmer said. "We go as Tandrea goes. We have a lot of capable players around her, but they're waiting on her to get us started."
Indeed, High's presence has been crucial as Mundy's Mill waits for its youth to develop. Farmer said he sees that development happening now, as he watched the Lady Tigers dive for loose balls and confound Riverwood with intense defensive pressure and hoist the tournament trophy.
"We're growing," Farmer said. "This is just a testimony to how we've grown to the mid-point of the season."
In boys action Eastside won the tournament with a 47-40 win over Forest Park. Brian McCarden led Forest Park with 17 points. For full details on that game see the Clayton News Daily website at News-Daily.com