Miller Makes It Back-to-back Titles

Miller makes it back-to-back titles

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For the longest time, the VISAA Division 3 title game was the hurdle that Miller just couldn’t get past. Now winning it all is becoming habit. For the second straight season the Mavericks brought back a state championship to Crozet, this time with behind a balanced and methodic offensive attack and stifling defense to handidly take down Williamsburg Christian Academy, 57-33.

The Mavericks celebrate their second straight championship after the buzzer sounds.

“We had a good run here but I think our regular season schedule is what prepared us,” said Miller coach James Braxton. “We played a lot of good competition and won our last 15 games. The one that really turned our season around was the 1-point loss to Oak Hill — probably the best private school in the state, period. We gained a lot of confidence from that game and just continued to roll. That’s what got us over the hump.”

Matching their quarterfinal and semifinal performances, the Mavericks jumped all over their opponent early, taking an 8-point lead just a few minutes into the contest and holding on to that all the way through the first quarter behind shooting from Bowles and Johanna Annunziata.

The game slowed a bit going into the second, as both defenses settled in and forced set offenses. The change in pace didn’t make a difference on the scoreboard. Miller remained out in front thanks in large part to its long rage shooting. The Mavericks extended their lead to double digits just before halftime.

In the third quarter Miller got its only true test of the contest as WCA cut a 13-point deficit early in the third down to just six points. However, the Mavericks never panicked. Bowles knocked down a pair of 3-pointers with a Claybrooks lay-up sandwiched in between on Millers next three possessions to get back ahead by 14.

“Williamsburg came out and played good defense with a 1-2-2 zone,” Braxton said. “The last couple of games we were preaching to our players to get inside. They took that away, and when teams take that away we have no problems looking outside.”

With Claybrooks establishing her presence more and more in the post as the second half progressed, the game stayed that way and the Mavericks were able to finished the fourth quarter up comfortably.

“We’re pretty confident this year,” Bowles said. “Everyone worked really well together and we all bonded. I know I felt confident coming (into this tournament) and doing everything we needed to do, and we did it.”

In season plagued by injuries — Whitney Martin was unable to participate in the tournament and both Ashley Bowles and Ashleigh Claybrooks missed significant time earlier in the year — there was no one that could match Braxton’s team’s depth.

Bowles, one of three seniors on Miller’s roster, led her team with 16 points and had three assists. Claybrooks, a junior, finished with 13 points to go with her nine rebounds. Senior Kelsey Corcoran added six points, seven rebounds and two assists. Annunziata finished with seven points.

Miller (25-4) will be without Bowles, Corcoran and Annunziata but returns 11 other members of its roster next year.

“It’s been amazing,” Bowles said of ending her high school career with a title. “I don’t want to leave, but I have to. I’m a little emotional, a little sad. But hopefully when I’m gone they continue to win like this. It’s (the underclassmen’s) turn now.”

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