When you’re playing William Monroe there are choices to be made. Thomas Jefferson made the decision to try and deny Sam Brunelle inside and keep her from a big night on the boards. The Vikings managed to pull that off, and the results were deadly.
“It’s the (opposing) coach’s job to decide what you want to do,” Brunelle said. “They did what they wanted to do and so then we did what we wanted to do. And so that’s how it played out.”
By conceding the outside shot with a 2-3 zone, the Thomas Jefferson defense gave up a whopping 13 shots from beyond the arc with Sam Brunelle and Hailey Morris knocking down all of them en route to a 73-44 win for the Dragons in the Region 3B quarterfinals.
“We’ve taken every single game possession by possession,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “So today it was ‘it’s regionals, there’s hype’ but that was outside of the game. Inside it was just the game. It’s easy to say but the girls truly buy into that. That’s why when they got up 10, 20, they were still grinding on defense and looking to push. It was just another possession.”
Brunelle hit the first of her nine 3-pointers to start the night and draw first blood. With the game at 7-5, the Dragons then peeled of a 17-7 run in a six minute stretch between the end of the first and the middle of the second. With a week off to prepare for the Vikings, it was the showing Stafford was hoping for.
“We got four days to practice for this and that’s a lot when you’re in February,” Stafford said. “It’s been a week since we’ve and I didn’t know how we’d look but it was really good. When your freshman is drilling three’s in her first playoff game, it’s good. And then Sam, when she plays with that smile on her face, she can’t be stopped. It’s that simple.”
When Brunelle and Morris weren’t cashing in on 3-pointers it was Jenna Valasquez and Allie Whiteheart finishing underneath. And with Morris —playing in her first varsity playoff game — finishing with four shots from beyond the arc, the Dragons were simply rolling.
“We were struggling a little in warmups but then we came out and just started playing and talked about energy,” Morris said. “As a team we just picked each other up and then the shots came. Tonight was that night for us.”
Monroe took a 42-17 lead into the break and never looked back. Brunelle scored 13 of her team’s 15 points in the third with 3-pointers 4,5 and 6 to make it 57-25 going into the fourth quarter.
“When Hailey and I get going together like that it gets me very excited, very,” Brunelle said. “You see the score, that’s what happens when we play like that.”
Nothing changed in the final frame with Brunelle hit another trio of three’s and scoring 14 of her team’s 16 to cap the win at 73-44.
Brunelle finished with 45 points to go along with 12 rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Morris finished with 12 points, all of them from beyond the arc to going with four assists. Whitehead had seven rebounds while Valasquez had eight.
Monroe (22-0) will now host the Region 3B semifinal on Tuesday with an opportunity to inch a step closer to a Class 3A bid.