Girls Hurt by Poor Shooting, Turnovers

Brentwood High School girls basketball coach Chris Jones isn't happy with something in the Dec. 3 loss with McKinley at BHS. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
Brentwood High School girls basketball coach Chris Jones isn’t happy with something he sees in the Dec. 7 loss to McKinley at BHS. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Price is back, might return to lineup by Jan. 11

 
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Email: bowmansj@sbcglobal.net

Remember last year at this time? The Brentwood High School girls basketball team was 5-0 and on its way to a 21-4 season.

Don’t remind head coach Chris Jones about that. He’s been up nights wondering how that same core group of players, minus a couple, could be 1-4 right now. Losing by an average margin of 16 points. Shooting 31 percent from the field. Regularly committing about a dozen more turnovers than the other team.

Can the absence of one player — Nija Price — make that much difference? (See more on her below.)

Assistant coach Andy Nieters and Marshelle Franklin (right) watch Megan Jones shoot in practice.
Assistant coach Andy Nieters and Marshelle Franklin (right) watch Megan Jones shoot in practice on Jan. 2.

Jones knows that part of the slow start has to do with the competition. All four losses were to teams with winning records. Two of them, Fort Zumwalt North and Timberland, are Class 5 schools, while BHS is almost small enough to be in Class 2.

But still, the other two losses were to teams the Eagles dominated last year – McKinley by 35 points and Lift for Life by 10.

Jones also knows that there have been only eight players on his roster, six of them either sophomore or freshman. For the first time in a while, not enough girls came out to field a junior varsity team.

The Eagles are not hurting for talent. They still have all-district point guard Marshelle Franklin and all-conference selections Sophia Rivera at center and Abby Harper at guard. But so far they’re not putting up numbers like last year. For instance, Franklin is averaging about seven fewer points a game, Rivera about five fewer rebounds.

Sophia Rivera takes aim against McKinley.
Sophia Rivera takes aim against McKinley. She had 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in the game.
Marshelle Franklin passes off against McKinley.
Marshelle Franklin passes around McKinley’s Fairah Jefferies.
Abby Harper dribbles through McKinley's press.
Abby Harper attempts to dribble through McKinley’s press.

Then there’s field-goal accuracy. Leading scorer Rivera is shooting 46 percent from the field but the rest of the team is averaging 25 percent.

“I’m extremely surprised at how poor the shooting is,” said Jones. He added that they’ve devoted time to improving their shooting, but that “we just go through the motions in practice. I don’t see them devoting the time it really takes to improve your shot.”

Which brings us back to Nija Price. She’s probably the main difference between last year’s team and this year’s team. Last year she and Franklin each averaged about 16 points and five to eight steals an outing. They keyed a manic defense that sometimes forced 30-some turnovers in one night. Price had 10 steals in a game with Valley Park.

But when this season started it was announced that she was ineligible to play during the first semester. So the Eagles, who were already shorthanded, played without her.

“That’s huge,” Jones said of Price’s absence. “It has affected everyone else’s scoring.”

Now Price is back and has been to about eight practices. Jones said she won’t play in any of the three games of the John Burroughs Tournament this week but might play against Clayton on Jan. 11. If that happens, she will have missed eight games, with 14 left before the district playoffs.

But how much difference can one person make?

“Is Nija going to be the piece of the puzzle?” said Jones. “She’s definitely going to help. She’s pretty exciting to watch and she’ll do a good job.”

Nija Price aims a free throw at a 9 a.m. practice Jan. 2 at BHS. She's back on the team after missing the first semester due to ineligibility.
Nija Price aims a free throw in the Eagles’ first practice of 2016, which started at 9 a.m. Jan. 2.

Brentwood stat leaders as of Jan. 3
Points: Rivera, 10.6 per game; Franklin, 9; Maggie Callihan, 3.8.
Rebounds: Rivera, 9.8; Franklin, 4; Callihan, 3.4.
Assists: Franklin, Callihan, Harper.
Steals: Franklin, Rivera, Harper.

Amanda Ingersoll passes in the McKinley game.
Amanda Ingersoll passes in the McKinley game.

Dec. 9: lost to Lift for Life 32-22
Brentwood led early then collapsed offensively, scoring a total of 13 points in the final three periods. Key stats: BHS shot just 25 percent from the field and made 11 more turnovers and 8 fewer rebounds. Leaders: Marshelle Franklin, 9 points (4-14 FG), 6 steals, 5 blocks, 4 assists; Sophia Rivera, 9 rebounds, 8 points, 4 blocks; Lift for Life’s Teara Walker, 10 points, 11 rebounds.

Gabby Gombas looks for an open teammate against McKinley.
Gabby Gombas looks past McKinley’s Khalidah Reece to find an open teammate.

Dec. 7: lost to McKinley 41-38
Trailing by 3 with 4 seconds left, Sophia Rivera fired a three-fourths-court pass to Marshelle Franklin, whose jump shot just missed at the buzzer. The lead changed hands four times in the fourth period, with the Eagles’ last advantage coming when Maggie Callihan calmly sank a free throw with 41 seconds left. Key stat: BHS was done in by cold field-goal shooting, making 28 percent to the Goldbugs’ 59 percent. Leaders: Sophia Rivera, 13 points (5-14 FG), 10 rebounds, 3 blocks; Marshelle Franklin, 11 points, 7 steals, 3 assists; Abby Harper, 3 assists; McKinley’s Dasia Batteast, 18 points, 12 rebounds.

Megan Jones practices her layup in practice.
Megan Jones practices her layup on Jan. 2.

Dec. 4: lost to Fort Zumwalt North 48-17 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Brentwood’s turnovers and 20-percent shooting produced only 10 points in the first three periods combined. Key stats: The Eagles had more rebounds but the Panthers launched 24 more shots and committed 12 fewer turnovers. Leaders: Marshelle Franklin, 8 points (1-5 FG), 3 assists, 2 steals; Sophia Rivera, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks; Zumwalt’s Tori Nesslage, 13 points.

Maggie Callihan (right) fights for position under the basket.
Maggie Callihan (right) fights for position with Mikenzie Roy of McKinley High School.

Dec. 2: beat Orchard Farm 41-40 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Playing without starting point guard Marshelle Franklin, BHS overcame a 4-point first quarter and rallied behind Sophia Rivera for its first win. Key stat: You know your opponent shot poorly (29 percent) when they lost despite having about 20 more field-goal attempts than you. Leaders: Rivera, 23 points (10-18 FG), 10 rebounds, 3 blocks; Maggie Callihan, 3 steals, 3 assists; Gabby Gombas, 6 points, 6 rebounds; OF’s Skylyr Leake, 18 points.

Logan Darrow keeps the ball moving in the McKinley game.
Logan Darrow keeps the ball moving in the McKinley game.

Nov. 30: lost to Timberland 50-29 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Key stats: Neither team shot accurately but because Brentwood committed 11 more turnovers and was outrebounded 30-22, Timberland had 20 more field-goal attempts. Leaders: Maggie Callihan, 9 points (3-6 FG); Sophia Rivera, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks; Marshelle Franklin, 8 points, 3 assists, 2 steals; Timberland’s Maia Hopkins, 14 points.

Chris Jones sees McKinley take the lead in the third period.
Chris Jones sees McKinley take the lead in the third period.

Brentwood’s Results — 1-4 as of Jan. 3
Nov. 30: lost to Timberland 50-29 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Dec. 2: beat Orchard Farm 41-40 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Dec. 4: lost to Fort Zumwalt North 48-17 at Orchard Farm Tournament
Dec. 7: lost to McKinley 41-38
Dec. 9: lost to Lift for Life 32-22
Upcoming:
Jan. 5: 6:30 p.m. vs. Soldan at John Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 6: 7 p.m. vs. Roosevelt at Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 8: 7 p.m. vs. John Burroughs at Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 11: vs. Clayton in Brentwood

Sophia Rivera covers a McKinley player.
Sophia Rivera covers Fairah Jefferies of McKinley.
Abby Harper fires a shot against McKinley.
Abby Harper launches a shot against McKinley.
Marshelle Franklin drives to the net against McKinley.
Marshelle Franklin drives to the net against McKinley’s Fairah Jefferies (left) and Mareah McCullough. Franklin contributed 13 points and seven steals and nearly tied the game with a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Chris Jones talks to Nija Price about shooting form on Jan. 2.
Chris Jones talks to Nija Price about shooting form in practice on Jan. 2.
Amanda Ingersoll goes to the floor for a loose ball in the McKinley game.
Amanda Ingersoll goes low and Gabby Gombas goes high to try to steal the ball from McKinley’s Dasia Batteast.
Maggie Callihan puts up a shot against McKinley.
Maggie Callihan puts up a shot between Fairah Jefferies (left) and Dasia Batteast of McKinley.
Megan Jones shoots a free throw in practice.
Megan Jones shoots a free throw in practice.

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