Girls Are on a Hot Streak, Win 8 of Last 9

With the score tied and fourth-tenths of a second left in the game, Sophia Rivera aims the free throw that will beat Windsor 43-42for third place in the Affton Tournament last week. (All photos by Steve Bowman)
With the score tied and fourth-tenths of a second left in the game, Sophia Rivera aims the free throw that will beat Windsor for third place in the Affton Tournament last week. (All photos by Steve Bowman)

Eagles get 3-0 start against conference foes

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

The Brentwood High School girls basketball team is loving 2016, so far. The Eagles started the season in 2015 by losing four of their first five games. Since then it’s been happy new year — they’ve won 10 of 13 and eight of their last nine for an overall record of 11-7.

“It feels like normal basketball now,” said senior guard Abby Harper. “It feels like last year.”

Last year is when they went 21-4, 8-0 in the South Central AA Conference.

After beating Crossroads on Tuesday they’re 3-0 in the South Central. They’ve dominated Valley Park and Crossroads and have yet to play Hancock and Bayless, two teams that are a combined 6-28.

Chris Jones speaks during a timeout in the fourth period against Windsor.
Chris Jones speaks during a timeout in the fourth period against Windsor.

Schedule eases up

Why has 2016 been so good to them? Part of it is their schedule. Of the 10 games they’ve won this year, nine have been against opponents that now have a losing record. Then again, three of them are within three games of .500 and only two have fewer than five wins.

Rivera, Franklin lead team

Another factor is the continued development of center Sophia Rivera and guard Marshelle Franklin. Each averages about 11 points a night and is capable of controlling a game’s outcome, but that’s where the similarity stops. They have different specialties.

Rivera, a 6-footer, is ranked fourth in the St. Louis area with five blocks a game and 26th with 10 rebounds an outing. Franklin, a 5-foot-6 ball handler, is ranked ninth and 26th with per-game averages of five steals and four assists.

Marshelle Franklin receives a medal after the Windsor game for being named to the all-tournament team.
Marshelle Franklin receives a medal after the Windsor game for being named to the all-tournament team.

Rivera also showed her mental toughness when she made a free throw with fourth-tenths of a second left to key Brentwood’s victory over Windsor-Imperial last week in the Affton Tournament. With the score tied, she was fouled while shooting with 0:04.4 remaining and had to endure a Windsor timeout before each free-throw attempt. She missed the first one and made the second to win the game.

“Before I missed the first shot I was thinking that I hadn’t made too many of my earlier free throws,” said Rivera. “I think that’s probably why I didn’t make it. On the second shot I actually thought back to my freshman year, a conference game at Valley Park that went into triple overtime. I think I made two free throws and each one sent it into another overtime with like two seconds to go. But then I missed one. I wanted to redeem myself so I thought about that for a second. Then I closed my eyes, took a breath and relaxed. The rest just kind of happened.”

Said Harper, “When Sophia stepped up to shoot the free throws I was thinking, ‘It’s just like practice, it’s just like practice, let’s knock it down.’ I was confident she’d make it.”

Abby Harper (left) and Amanda Ingersoll (right) react to Sophia Rivera making a free throw to beat Windsor with 00:04.4 remaining in the game. Rivera runs back to play defense but the Owls ran out of time to launch a final shot.
Abby Harper (left) and Amanda Ingersoll (right) react to Sophia Rivera making a free throw to beat Windsor with 00:04.4 remaining in the game. Rivera runs back to play defense but the Owls ran out of time to launch a final shot.

Nija is back

The Nija factor is another reason for the Eagles’ turnaround. Sophomore forward Nija Price has been back on the roster for six of the past 10 games. She’s averaged 9 points, five rebounds and three steals.

“The team is much more energized with her around, there’s no question,” said head coach Chris Jones.

Nija Price goes in for a layup against Windsor.
Nija Price goes in for a layup against Windsor’s Hannah Holloway.

Imani is on board

Also encouraging to the players is the addition of freshman Imani Gordon to the roster. A 5-foot-8 center, Gordon started for the Kirkwood High School freshman team before transferring here for the second semester. In her first four games she grabbed 12 rebounds.

“She’s still learning our system,” said assistant coach Andy Nieters.

Added Jones, “Yeah, she’s raw. At 5 feet 8 she has height. Her nickname was ‘truck’ for little league football — I like that.”

Imani Gordon warms up after the halftime break of the Windsor game.
Imani Gordon warms up after the halftime break of the Windsor game.

Feb. 2: beat Crossroads 61-18
For the second game in a row, Brentwood scored double figures in each quarter. Key stat: The Eagles were merciless on defense, making an incredible 24 steals, with six players each getting at least 3 — not just Marshelle and Nija, but Abby, Amanda, Maggie and Sophia. BHS leaders: Maggie Callihan, 14 points (5-14 FG); Sophia Rivera, 12 points (5-10 FG), 10 rebounds, 2 blocks; Abby Harper, 11 points (5-11 FG), 4 steals; Marshelle Franklin, 10 assists, 7 steals.

Chris Jones questions a call from a referee in the fourth period of the Windsor game.
Chris Jones questions a call from a referee in the fourth period of the Windsor game.

Feb. 1: beat Kennedy 57-31
Brentwood never let up, scoring double figures in each quarter. Key stats: Kennedy shot 20 percent and was outrebounded 37-23. BHS leaders: Sophia Rivera, 18 points (7-13 FG), 9 rebounds, 4 blocks; Marshelle Franklin, 7 steals, 5 assists. JFK leaders: Sam Bogard, 10 points (2-8 FG); Abby Schueppert, 5 rebounds.

Abby Harper brings the ball up the floor in the Windsor game.
Abby Harper brings the ball up the floor between Hannah Holloway and Ellie Jablonowski (5) of Windsor.

Jan. 29: beat Valley Park 56-20
Valley Park scored only 13 points over three periods, while Brentwood gushed for a season-high 24 in the third. Key stat: The Hawks committed a disastrous 37 turnovers, 22 more than the Eagles. BHS leaders: Maggie Callihan, 18 points (6-13 FG), 6 steals; Marshelle Franklin, 11 points (4-10 FG), 5 steals, 2 blocks; Gabby Gombas, 9 rebounds; Nija Price, 5 steals; Abby Harper, 4 steals, 3 assists. Valley Park leaders: Delaney Schmidt, 7 points (3-12 FG); Daja Hayes, 8 rebounds. Callihan: “I was feeling it. In the first quarter I had two threes and a nice easy layup. I knew it was going to be one of those games where I just wanted the ball.”

Maggie Callihan releases a shot inside against Windsor.
Maggie Callihan releases a shot over Windsor’s Anna Haley (left) and Hannah Hearst.

Jan. 26: beat Windsor 46-45 in Affton Tournament
Sophia Rivera sank a free throw with fourth-tenths of a second remaining to help the Eagles win third place in the tournament. Two tie-breaking clutch shots preceded Rivera’s: Maggie Callihan’s bank-in on an inside dish by Abby Harper with 2:22 left and a free throw by Marshelle Franklin at 1:53. Key stat: The Owls missed 40 shots, thanks in part to Rivera blocking nine of them. Head coach Chris Jones: “We’re lucky. Luck is good.” Assistant coach Andy Nieters: “This is one of those where you just wanted to get it and run away.” BHS leaders: Rivera, 15 points (6-11 FG), 9 rebounds, 9 blocks; Marshelle Franklin, 9 points (4-9 FG), 2 steals, 2 assists; Nija Price, 9 points (3-6 FG); Abby Harper, 2 assists. Windsor leaders: Hannah Holloway, 21 points (6-18 FG). Shaina Kmetz, 11 rebounds.

Gabby Gombas and Abby Harper (20) cover Windsor's Mary Smith.
Gabby Gombas and Abby Harper (20) cover Windsor’s Calli Robertson.

Jan. 25: lost to Clayton 51-36 at Affton Tournament
Some basic math here: How do you lose by 15 when you were outscored by only 3 in the final three periods? The answer, of course, is you were beaten by 12 points, 17-5, in the first quarter. Desperate to close that early gap, the Eagles made only two of 12 3-pointers. Key stat: Aside from the treys, Brentwood shot and defended about as well as the Greyhounds. Clayton’s only big advantage was in rebounding, 32-21. BHS leaders: Marshelle Franklin, 19 points (8-13 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists; Sophia Rivera, 6 blocks, 5 rebounds. Clayton leader: Brooke Jones, 17 points (7-15 FG), 10 rebounds.

Megan Jones looks for an open teammate in the Windsor game.
Megan Jones looks for an open teammate in the Windsor game.

Brentwood’s Results — 11-7 as of Feb. 3
Nov. 30: lost to Timberland 50-29 at Orchard Farm Tourn.
Dec. 2: beat Orchard Farm 41-40 at Orchard Farm Tourn.
Dec. 4: lost to Fort Zumwalt North 48-17 at Orchard Farm Tourn.
Dec. 7: lost to McKinley 41-38
Dec. 9: lost to Lift for Life 32-22
Jan. 4: beat Soldan 52-50 at John Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 6: beat Roosevelt 51-16 at John Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 8: lost to John Burroughs 39-23 at Burroughs Tourn.
Jan. 11: lost to Clayton 55-34
Jan. 12: beat Crossroads 51-16
Jan. 13: beat Trinity Catholic 47-38
Jan. 15: beat Villa Duchesne 37-35
Jan. 23: beat Liberty Wentzville 54-49 at Affton Tourn.
Jan. 25: lost to Clayton 51-36 at Affton Tourn.
Jan. 26: beat Windsor 46-45 at Affton Tourn.
Jan. 29: beat Valley Park 56-20
Feb. 1: beat Kennedy 57-31
Feb. 2: beat Crossroads 61-18
Upcoming:
Feb. 5, 5 p.m., at Maplewood-Richmond Heights
Feb. 8, 6 p.m., host Bayless
Feb. 9, 5:30 p.m., at Hancock
Feb. 12, 6 p.m., at Bayless
Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m., host Valley Park
Feb. 17, 5:30 p.m., host Hancock

Amanda Ingersoll flips a pass against Windsor.
Amanda Ingersoll flips a pass against Windsor.
Logan Darrow covers Windsor's Jill Jones.
Logan Darrow covers Windsor’s Hannah Holloway.
Marshelle Franklin gets another steal against Windsor.
Marshelle Franklin strips the ball from a Windsor player.
Maggie Callihan (right) and Abby Harper force a turnover from Windsor's Jill Jones.
Maggie Callihan (right) and Abby Harper force a turnover from Windsor’s Calli Robertson.
Imani Gordon closely covers Jill Jones of Windsor.
Imani Gordon closely covers Hannah Holloway of Windsor.
In this photo and the two below it, Sophia Rivera goes in for a layup against Windsor's Jill Jones.
In this photo and the two below it, Sophia Rivera goes in for a layup against Windsor’s Shaina Kmetz.

SJB_2581 Sophia Rivera

SJB_2582 Sophia Rivera

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