If William Monroe’s girls basketball is going to reach the goals it has set this year, like any other team, a lot of small things are going to have to come together.
One of those small things? Point guard Hailey Morris is going to have to not panic down the stretch and give the Dragons another cool, calm ballhandler beyond do-it-all star Sam Brunelle. That’s a lot to ask of a freshman like Morris.
But based on how she handled Fluvanna’s quick, athletic guards in the closing minutes of Friday’s 55-43 win over the Flucos on the road, Monroe could have this one little thing squared away.
“A lot of that comes with the maturity from the varsity experience,” Morris said. “I played a lot of fall league with coach (Jess) Stafford and I had to learn a lot from that and I went to a few camps over the summer that helped me keep my composure, which, I think is what it boiled down to tonight.”
Morris handled the ball near midcourt for a long stretch as the Dragons looked to melt the clock with a little more than a minute left, eventually getting it over to Brunelle to finish the job and ice the win. It also didn’t hurt that she gave the Dragons some scoring punch with 15 on the night including four 3-pointers.
“She can shoot a little bit so if you’re going to pack the box you’re going to leave the perimeter,” said Monroe coach Jess Stafford. “Hailey did a great job of stepping up today and making that opportunity her own. Handling that pressure, that’s something in the past we’ve had difficulties with that. She did a great job keeping her composure.”
Every time Morris knocks down a three, she cracks a pretty big smile, unleashing a kind of unbridled joy when her shot falls.
“My favorite aspect of my game really is my jump shot, I love to shoot and I’ll pull it from anywhere,” Morris said. “I’ve always played with a lot of emotion in my game and luckily I’ve taken out some of the negative aspects of that but I definitely go off of the highs from (knocking down shots).”
Brunelle, for her part, poured in 27 points and took over in the third quarter, exploding for 13 points after notching just four in the first half while Monroe built a narrow 26-24 advantage. That run broke open the game and gave Monroe some breathing room.
“We were hoping to contain her and pretty much make others hurt us and the energy was good in the first half,” said Fluvanna coach Chad White. “We know at some point she’s going to go, but hopefully during that time where she’s not scoring we’re playing really good so you can stretch the lead … but she’s good.”
Brunelle’s ability to take control in that key moment helped offset two solid offensive performances from Fluvanna’s Destini Monroe who finished with 17 points including a trio of 3-pointers and the Flucos’ Jules Shepherd who had 13 points including six in the opening quarter when the Flucos jumped out to a five-point lead.
The Flucos continue to build and take steps with a developing roster packed with freshmen and sophomores.
“We put in our last offensive set in so we look at the fact that we ran that well and just baby steps getting better,” White said. “And our energy was there, we’re trying to be consistent with our energy from game to game because they’re so young.”
For Monroe Jenna Velasquez chipped in eight first half points to bolster Morris and Brunelle’s efforts, but only Brunelle and Morris scored after the break.
Monroe will take on Brooke Point in the first round of next week’s Daily Progress Holiday Tournament Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. while Fluvanna hosts its own two day holiday tournament starting Thursday.