Proud and Pushing: Monroe girls lean on defense in win over Broadway win

Photo by Bart Isley

With star Sam Brunelle still out with a foot injury for an unknown amount of time, William Monroe’s girls basketball’s players have been thrust into newly expanded roles over the last 10 days.


“Everything shifts and I’m beyond proud of them because they’re getting asked to do things that they weren’t asked to do,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “They’re showing up, they’re stepping up, they’re shining.”


Stafford has good reason to be proud. Beyond the obvious results of three-straight wins, the Dragons are finding different ways to win, including a hard-fought 46-39 victory over Broadway Saturday at the Play for Preemies Showcase in Crozet led by Martha Apple’s 16 points, 13 of which came in the second half.


While Hailey Morris’ lights out 3-point shooting ignited the Dragons earlier in the week against Fluvanna, the offense didn’t come easily against the Gobblers.


“It wasn’t the prettiest basketball at all, there was a lid on the basket,” Stafford said. “We missed layups, we missed free throws.”


Instead, the Dragons leaned on a pugnacious defensive identity that’s been at their core with Brunelle in the lineup, scrapping for every loose ball and opportunity. Iyanna Carey led that effort with 10 rebounds, four steals and two assists to go with her 10 points, giving her a workman-like double double that also included a charge taken early in the fourth. Carey, who simply plays bigger than her height game-in and game-out, was critical as the Dragons battled Broadway while leading just 18-15 at the break.


“She’s always on the floor diving for loose balls, she’s a spark plug of sorts,” Stafford said. “And then she knocked down some big buckets for us, I’m super proud of her staying confident.”


The game’s low-scoring nature made every possession count and Jenna Velasquez came up with nine boards and two steals to help give the Dragons a handful of extra chances. Morris, meanwhile, was clutch down the stretch, going 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter on chances Monroe simply had to convert on.


Apple added seven rebounds to her 16-point performance.  


The Dragons get six days off before jumping into Northwestern District play against Manassas Park Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at home.