It is somewhat unusual for a basketball coach to introduce a defense to his players in the middle of a game, especially when the players have not practiced it.
Goodyear Millennium’s Cory Rojeck took the bold step on Saturday night (Dec. 28) and it worked for the girls as they defeated Scottsdale Saguaro 51-37 and earned the championship of the 5th annual Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Phoenix Arcadia.
With his team holding onto a 22-20 halftime lead against the defending Division II champions, Rojeck instructed his players to play a box-and-one defense, and the Lady Tigers held Saguaro to just three points in the third quarter. Millennium led 39-23 at the end of the quarter.
“You have to give the kids credit for executing something they had not practiced,’’ Rojeck said.
Two players actually assumed the role of the “one.’’ Passionate Amukamara and Amma Fordjour substituted for each other in the lineup and chased around Saguaro star senior guard Casey Rarrick.
Rarrick scored 12 points in the first quarter, but only one point thereafter as Amukamara and Fordjour followed her every move.
“They are our stoppers,’’ Rojeck said. “Casey is one of the best guards in the state, and they did a good job on her.’’
Millennium had a balanced offense. Quynne Higgins had 15 points and Raina Perez had 11.
With Rarrick missing some time in the first half with foul trouble and then being shut down in the second half, much of the Saguaro scoring load was assumed by Jelani Huma. She finished with 13 points, nine in the second half with a pair of 3-pointers.
Both teams had trouble at the free-throw line.
Rojeck was pleased with his team’s showing in the tournament. The Lady Tigers fell to Phoenix Desert Vista in the title game of the (Tempe) Marcos de Niza tournament. Both Millennium and Desert Vista are contenders to take over the top spot in Division I after graduation and defections put powerhouse Phoenix St. Mary’s in dire straits.