As the defending Holiday Classic champs, William Monroe came out and showed just how much depth they’ve added since last year. While there’s no getting around the production Sam Brunelle brings to both ends of the floor, Monticello found out the hard way what the addition of Texas native Martha Apple means to a Dragons team that’s already got its fare share of talent. With a 22-0 to close out the second quarter Monroe established dominance in the paint, dominated the glass, got off in transition and hit deep jumpers when forced to run its half court set en route to a 63-32 win to set up a meeting with Brooke Point in the second round.
“Really (the run) came from shoring up their dribble penetration,” said Dragons coach Jess Stafford. “We were over extending ourselves, not that we can’t handle it but we were reaching for the steal, and we had to understand that the steal comes off the pass not off the reach. We shored that up and once we stopped the dribble penetration we kept them to one shot and box out and go, go go.”
Monticello was hanging in there at the start of the first quarter, but found itself down 11 going into the second quarter with Brunelle picking up eight of her game high 24 points and Bryana Woofter chipping in a pair of field goals. But the Mustangs were able to fight back in the beginning of the second quarter to make it 18-13 with a 3-pointer from Makenzie Turner.
“We started out okay and then it was just like we were hitting these walls, started getting inconsistent and we showed our age, and by the time we got back into things we were in a really big hole,” said Monticello coach Juwahn Smith. “We just have to keep working on that consistency, playing through adversity and adjusting. We’re learning, we’re getting closer.”
Those were the last points the Monroe defense would surrender in the first half though. And with Apple and Brunelle rolling, both cleaning up under the basket, at the free throw line and knocking down shots from outside, what ensued was a 22-0 run to close out the second and make it 40-13 at the break.
“My teammates are doing a great job of finding me,” Apple said. “They’re really supporting me and making me confident when I’m out there. It’s really important to me that we play Monroe basketball and I think that’s what we’ve been doing and so then that makes me feel really comfortable with all the girls.”
With momentum carrying over in the third, that 22-0 run became a 40-4 run that allowed Monroe to rest its starters for the bulk of the second half and close out the game without much pressure.
“It’s great playing with this new group of girls, I mean it’s just really different than any other year,” Brunelle said “Last year we won this tournament but now we’ve got four different girls that all bring special skills to court and it’s just great to have them and work on moving forward with all of this.”
Monticello’s Dasha Kinlaw led the Mustangs with 12 points but she had a scary moment in the middle of third when she was hit in the mouth and shipped off to UVa Hospital to repair the damage. With Tianna Kinlaw sidelined as well, the Mustangs were thin to begin with but got plenty of minutes from its bench.
Brunelle chipped in 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals to go with her 24 points. Apple finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Bryana Woofter had six points and seven assists. Hailey Morris also had six points. Those four accounded all but seven points for the Dragons.
The Dragons face a Class 5A opponent in the Blackhawks Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Monticello. The Mustangs play at home in the consolation bracket with Albemarle at 2 p.m.