A Journey Ends: Miller girls finish as state runner-up

Photo by Bart Isley

When some student athletes say a program is family they mean it more in the metaphorical sense. Presleigh Braxton means that too, but the Miller girls basketball program is also literally her family with dad James at head coach, mom Natasha at scorekeeper and sister Parker a sharpshooting eighth grader. 


“It was tough,” Braxton said. “It’s tough to lose any game but to get this far and lose is really, really tough. That’s my last high school basketball game so it’s really emotional but I’m glad I got to play with these people and finish the season with my dad and with everyone else.”


That family basketball journey came to an end Friday for Braxton as the two-time BRAC conference player of the year and the Mavericks fell in the VISAA Division II state title game 46-35 to Virginia Academy on a day where Miller’s offense sputtered after averaging 55 points per game on the season. 


Braxton, who is committed to play softball at Bowie State, capped her career with 1,000 career points (she reached that career mark earlier this season) and three state championship game appearances with a title as a junior.


“It’s been great, she’s carried on the mold of previous point guards we’ve had in our program, Lexi Malloy, Taylor Sandidge and Johanna Annunziata, kids that are just tough,” James Braxton said. “We’ll miss her, it’ll be tough to replace her.”


The Mavericks trailed 28-19 at halftime of the state title game, but they got exactly the defensive effort they needed in the third quarter, holding Virginia Academy to just six points in that frame, opening the door for a comeback. Miller’s offense, however, continued to struggle and Miller scored just five points in the third, creating a sizeable fourth quarter hole.


“We didn’t score,” Miller coach James Braxton said. “During the course of the season, we’ve gotten behind but we’ve gotten the breaks by scrambling a little bit on defense and we just didn’t score when we normally do.”


Virginia Academy’s Joi Williams took over for the Patriots in the fourth, scoring eight of her 16 points in the final eight minutes to help Virginia Academy finish off a state championship. 


“They’re a good team, their guards are good and they’ve got some post presence so we knew they were really well balanced coming in,” James Braxton said.


Brooklin Ingram scored 11 points to lead the Mavericks while Presleigh Braxton finished with nine points on the night. Naomi Ryan had six. The Patriots locked in on trying to shut down Alary Bell and managed to hold Miller’s prolific post player in check the entire night. 


While the senior core of Ingram, Bell and Presleigh Braxton didn’t get the storybook finish they’d hoped for, the Mavericks finish the year as the BRAC champions. And a level of closeness that not too many teams can claim. 


“It’s been family, it’s been togetherness, it’s been a community,” Presleigh Braxton said. “I know I can always lean on all these people and it has been good getting to know everyone and learn from the best and I’m going to miss it.”