With a convincing enough lead, Millbrook girls’ basketball coach Chris East rotated in several bench players against Wakefield on Tuesday night.
But he kept one starter in a bit longer.
East said junior forward Andreal Bass was able to best cover Wakefield’s quick freshman guard Jada Peeples, but Bass did so much more.
She finished with a double-double in Millbrook’s 62-38 win, each team entering the game undefeated in Cap-8 Conference play. The Wildcats (10-2, 4-0 Cap-8) had a statement to make after picking up their first two losses of the year at the Crescom Bank Invitational in Myrtle Beach, S.C., over the holiday break.
Bass’ 16 points and 12 rebounds weren’t a bad way to do it. She had eight points at halftime, with Millbrook claiming a 30-point lead, and doubled her production in the fourth quarter alone on 4-of-4 shooting.
“I was on. I was energized,” Bass said. “I was on the go.”
With scorers like Bass and junior guard Dazia Powell, who led the Wakefield game with 19 points, and a distinct defense, the defending Cap-8 champions are looking to be a team to beat this year.
Wakefield (10-4, 3-1) couldn’t score until a Gabby Donaldson basketball with 1:31 left in the first quarter. Millbrook had built a 14-0 lead by then.
The Cats’ defense wasn’t shy about disrupting the dribble, exploiting uncontrolled passes and suffocating the ball handlers. They made it challenging to locate an open shot. By halftime, Wakefield was 4-of-20 from the floor.
“I think my kids feed off our pressure,” East said. “We gain confidence as time goes on.”
Millbrook also created opportunities off turnovers. It forced 12 steals and was dangerous on the break, especially with Powell leading the charge.
“I can trust my teammates,” Powell said. “If they get the rebound, they’re going to push it out. If I see one of them get the rebound, I know I can just take off.”
Kai Crutchfield and L’Donnisty Granison each had a game-high three steals, one fewer than Wakefield’s total (four).
Especially with the first unit in on defense, Millbrook was extremely vocal on that side of the floor. It once led to a Crutchfield steal in the third quarter.
“You let your teammate know that, ‘Yes, I’ve got your back, move to the side,’ ” East said. “When we talk, we’re pretty tough.”
Millbrook finished with 49 boards, devouring the glass against Wakefield’s 25. Bass was the only player to grab double-figure rebounds, and all but two Cats didn’t pull one down Tuesday night.
Donaldson led Wakefield with six.
Team to beat?
For as much as Millbrook did well in various facets of its first game back from break, there were undeniable miscues around the basket.
The Wildcats missed several shots right under the hoop throughout the night.
“I was a little concerned we missed a couple shots around the basket in transition,” East said.
Last season, Millbrook fell to Broughton in the second round of N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
This year, the hopes are high despite errors East looks to correct as early as the game at Heritage on Friday night.
“Our mentality is take it one game at a time,” he said. “Even though we won tonight, there’s a couple of glaring issues we still need to deal with. We’ll work on that the next couple of days in practice.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan