Wood boys defeat Millbrook with late surge

WINCHESTER — Twenty-three seconds after committing his fourth foul and going to the bench, 6-foot-2 Millbrook forward Cohen Creswell was back on the court with 5:44 left in the game after his 6-2 teammate Trey White was forced to leave Saturday’s boys’ basketball game against James Wood with his fifth foul.

The Colonels knew exactly what to do from there.

Trailing since the first quarter, James Wood took the lead in the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run from the 5:31 mark to the 2:34 mark, with Ashton Kees and Shaun Johnson scoring six of the first eight points with Creswell, a strong defender who needed to avoid a fifth foul, guarding them.

The Colonels wouldn’t give up that advantage, and they wound up scoring 19 of the game’s last 25 points for a 60-53 win at the Pioneers’ Casey Gymnasium.

James Wood (6-12, 2-5 Class 4 Northwestern District) earned its first win over Millbrook (5-11, 3-2) in three years — it fell to the Pioneers 73-57 on Dec. 18 — and snapped a nine-game losing streak against Winchester-Frederick County foes that dated back to Dec. 8, 2022. The Colonels also won for the third time in five games after losing seven straight.

“It’s a big team morale boost,” said senior forward Brandon Waters (team-high 14 points), who screamed as he slammed the ball off the ground to make it bounce high when the buzzer sounded, then celebrated with his teammates. “It’s big for the guys. It’s bringing everybody a lot closer together. We’re feeling good.”

Kees (13 points) wasn’t feeling great coming into Saturday’s game as a result of a back injury that he suffered against Kettle Run on Wednesday. He didn’t practice Friday and he didn’t start either the first half or second half to limit his minutes.

His back was tight at the beginning, and he had just two points at halftime while also dealing with foul trouble. But he said his back loosened up as the game went on, and he was outstanding down the stretch.

Millbrook played a trapping, zone defense for much of the game, but the Colonels were able to get some one-on-one situations with Creswell (10 points, two steals) when he checked in with 5:44 left. Kees scored on a layup with 5:31 left to make it 47-43. He drove deep into the paint with Creswell guarding again with 4:51 left, then hit a fadeaway jumper a few feet away after a second defender arrived late to make it 47-45.

Kemper Omps sank a 13-foot fadeaway after dribbling with a defender on him along the right baseline with 4:27 left to tie the game at 47, then the Colonels took the lead for good when they passed the ball to Johnson posting up on the left block. Johnson (seven points) turned on Creswell and laid the ball in with 3:35 left, roaring as he did so.

“Once he got that fourth foul, I knew he was going to back off a little bit,” said Kees of Creswell. “I started taking it to him a little more. It was easy to score, because he wasn’t trying to push me.”

Millbrook coach Erick Green Sr. said his team needed to help Creswell out on those plays.

“[Creswell] couldn’t really play any defense [after getting his fourth foul],” Green said. “We were supposed to be doubling down, and for some reason, nobody doubled down. We talk about making that extra step, and we didn’t make that extra step.”

Millbrook did swarm Kees when he got the ball on the right block with less than 2:40 remaining, but Kees was able to turn and find an open Waters for a jumper just outside the lane on the left block, and he knocked it down to make it 51-47. Kees would score on another one-on-one drive to make it 53-49 with 2:01 left.

The Pioneers responded with a 10-second stretch in which Chase Ford (13 points, five rebounds) hit a jumper, they forced a turnover, and Shawn Rooks (11 points) drew a foul with a chance to tie. But Rooks missed both free throws, and James Wood’s John Copenhaver grabbed one of his four fourth-quarter rebounds.

On the ensuing possession, the Colonels again got the ball to Kees, and Millbrook swarmed. But the 6-foot-5 Kees whipped the ball over the top to an open Waters underneath the basket for a hoop to make it 55-51.

“They had to double-team me, and that left Brandon wide-open [for two baskets],” Kees said.

The Pioneers never were in a position to draw even again, with Waters going 4 for 4 from the line and Omps (nine points) making 1 of 2 free throws.

James Wood coach Tim Wygant said he was impressed with the senior leadership of Kees, Waters and Omps on Saturday.

“[Kees] brings that level of intensity and energy, and he’s smart about his role on the team,” Wygant said. “Everyone looks for [Kees], because nine times out of 10 he’s in the right spots. The seniors across the board are seniors for a reason. They really settled down and understood exactly what I wanted from them. It was a great win.”

Millbrook’s trapping zone gave James Wood fits at times. After scoring just nine points (though only trailing by one) in the first quarter, James Wood shot 2 of 8 from the field and committed seven turnovers in the second quarter to trail 27-19 at halftime.

But the Colonels started the second half with a 7-0 run, and were within striking distance at 43-38 after making 5 of 10 shots in the third quarter. James Wood only had six turnovers in the second half, and the Colonels made 13 of 22 shots, including each of their last seven.

“I think [Millbrook’s defensive strategy] surprised us a little bit initially, because that wasn’t part of what Millbrook did the first time,” Wygant said. “It was a quality 1-3-1, three-quarter-court press. We’ve handled pressure fairly well all year, it was just a matter of getting our team in the right spots.”

On the other end, James Wood held Millbrook to 8-of-28 shooting in the second half, and outrebounded the Pioneers 12-3 in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers did not have an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter.

“We play well defensively when we rebound the ball well,” Wygant said. “The defensive intensity really picked up. The key for us is contest shots, one shot [on a possession]. We do that, we’re going to have success.”

The Pioneers appeared to be on the rise when they beat Handley on Dec. 21, but due to a scheduling quirk and poor weather they only played two games in 31 days before facing Hedgesville (W.Va.) on Monday. Millbrook has lost four games in six days since.

“Over that long break, we just lost our hunger, our execution, and our discipline,” Green said. “We’re doing things we weren’t doing earlier in the season. We’re just not taking that extra step to get in the passing lanes, not boxing out to get a rebound. It’s making us look bad. I’m trying to figure out how to get it together. Right now, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling. We’re just going to keep battling and see what happens.”

Darius Banks had four steals and Andrew Henry had four assists for Millbrook, which is next in action on Tuesday when it hosts Liberty. James Wood will travel to Fauquier on Monday.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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