Eagles win 9 in a row, will face Kennedy in district playoffs
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
In a regular season full of drama, there will be one last act for the Brentwood High School girls basketball team. On Feb. 16 they’ll attempt to win the conference title outright for the second year in a row. They’ll pit their 7-0 league record against Valley Park’s 6-1 on senior night at BHS.
Notice we called it the last act of the regular season. There will be plenty more drama when the district playoffs start on Feb. 22. If the Eagles can once again beat Kennedy they should face top-seeded Whitfield in the semifinals.
Actually the Valley Park game might not end up being all that dramatic, as the Eagles beat the Hawks by 36 on Jan. 29. And to borrow a BHS football term, they’re running downhill, having won nine in a row and 13 out of their past 14. Still, the game might be more interesting than their previous six games, which they won by an average margin of 57 points.
But don’t think the lopsided scores detract from the excitement of the game for point guard Marshelle Franklin. She has nothing personal against their opponents, but is simply happy to be playing at last year’s level, when they ran a relentless press and won 13 in a row.
“I love running up the score, setting traps and getting steals,” she said after one of their three blowouts last week. “In the beginning I’d say we struggled this season. But now I think everybody is just gelling together, we all know how each other plays. We’ve got Nija [Price] back and then we’ve got Imani [Gordon], a new player.”
After missing the first half of the season, Price certainly is making her presence felt. She’s averaging 11 points, five rebounds and four steals a game and has 16 three-pointers.
“Nija brings the three, and the speed and the trapping and the steals,” said Franklin.
Price doesn’t mind the lopsided scores either.
“I like it because we get to build our chemistry,” she said. “We’re able to see how everyone works, like what shots they can make, what their moves are. It’s more time to practice, I guess.”
Coach Chris Jones knows most of his recent competition has had losing records, but he’s encouraged that his players have held six of the last eight to 20 points or less.
“The good thing is, we pull ahead and we call off the press, but we’re still holding teams to 20 points,” Jones said. “Once we get the big lead our defense is not letting up.
He’s also seeing something he didn’t have enough players to enjoy in the first half of the season: depth.
“Two games in a row now, everybody on the roster scored, which may be a first for me,” he said last week. “I think I have the top three girls in the conference in Sophia [Rivera], Marshelle and Nija. But I can also put my second group in and still win.”
In the first round of the Class 3 District 4 playoffs, fourth-seeded Brentwood will play fifth-seeded Kennedy, whom they beat by 26 on Feb. 1. The winner will then play top-seeded Whitfield, 21-2, in the semifinals (assuming the Warriors top 1-11 Cleveland).
“We might have the element of surprise [at district] if our future opponents are looking at our schedule and thinking our opponents are sucky,” said Price. “But I think we can still compete well with higher level teams.”
South Central AA Conference
Standings as of Feb. 14
Valley Park 6-1
Feb. 12: beat Bayless 73-33
Brentwood scored over 40 points in the first half for the fifth game in a row. Key stats: The swarming Eagles had 22 steals and nine blocks. Brentwood leaders: Sophia Rivera 20 points (10-18 FG), 11 rebounds, 6 blocks; Nija Price, 18 points (7-10 FG); Maggie Callihan, 16 points (6-14 FG); Marshelle Franklin, 14 points (7-14 FG), 5 steals, 5 assists.
Feb. 9: beat Hancock 74-13
In the first three periods Brentwood scored 25, 18 and 22 points, which will beat most anybody. Key stat: The Eagles made 34 steals. BHS leaders: Marshelle Franklin, 19 points (9-16 FG), 9 steals, 8 assists; Sophia Rivera, 14 points (7-11 FG), 13 rebounds, 3 blocks; Maggie Callihan, 13 points (5-12 FG); Abby Harper, 12 points (5-12 FG); Nija Price, 8 steals. Hancock leaders: April Turner, 11 points (4-11 FG); Brooke Kenneally, 9 rebounds; Janelle Warren, 9 rebounds.
Feb. 8: beat Bayless 79-16
Brentwood scored an NBA-like 57 points in the first half and might have reached 100 points if coach Chris Jones hadn’t called off the press and replaced his starters. Key stat: The Eagles made 39 steals. BHS leaders: Marshelle Franklin, 19 points (8-14 FG); Nija Price, 18 points (7-11 FG), 8 steals; Maggie Callihan, 14 points (5-8 FG), 7 steals, 3 blocks; Abby Harper, 10 points (4-11 FG), 7 steals, 3 blocks; Sophia Rivera, 8 rebounds; Gabby Gombas, 6 assists.
Brentwood’s Results — 16-7 as of Feb. 14
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
Feb. 3: beat Hancock 81-11 46 pts first half
Feb. 5: beat Maplewood-Richmond Heights 79-12 41 first half
Feb. 8: beat Bayless 79-16 57 points first half
Feb. 9: beat Hancock 74-13 43 points first half
Feb. 12: beat Bayless 73-33
Feb. 16, 6 p.m., host Valley Park (senior night)
Feb. 17, 5:30 p.m., at Orchard Farm
Class 3 District 4 playoffs at John Burroughs:
Feb. 22, 8 p.m., vs. JFK
Feb. 24, 5 p.m., vs. Whitfield (if beat JFK)
Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m. final
Seeding for Class 3 District 4 playoffs
1. Whitfield, 21-2
2. John Burroughs, 15-9
3. Principia, 11-13
4. Brentwood, 17-7
5. John F. Kennedy, 5-17
6. Valley Park, 12-11
7. MRH, 3-19
8. Cleveland, 1-11