jma girls bball vs gatewood

John Milledge senior Olivia Rhodes aggressively goes to the basket in Wednesday’s win over visiting Gatewood. Rhodes finished with a game-high 18 points in her team’s 10th victory this season.

John Milledge girls basketball has been on a roll since losing a holiday tournament game to Southland Academy just before Christmas.

The Lady Trojans (10-2) notched their fourth and fifth consecutive wins Tuesday and Wednesday. They defeated Brentwood 40-34 in Sandersville Tuesday then handled Gatewood 59-29 inside the Trojan Center Wednesday after jumping out to a big first-quarter lead. 

The JMA girls and Lady Gators of Eatonton were originally scheduled to meet weeks ago, but COVID shut down the Gatewood basketball programs through the holiday break. Wednesday’s meeting was organized just this week in what is sure to be a trend the remainder of this season as schools try to play in a pandemic. 

Play started a bit sluggish between the two rival schools Wednesday, but the Lady Trojans soon jumped out to a 19-6 lead by first quarter’s end. John Milledge extended its advantage as the game wore on, eventually earning the 30-point victory on its home floor.

Lady Trojans head coach Tasha Gainous after the game said she used the opportunity to allow her team to practice some less-used defensive tactics. 

“I felt like we played really well, at times,” said Gainous. “Truthfully I wasn’t super pumped about our press. The last couple games our three-quarter court press has looked really good, but tonight I wanted to work on our stronger press because we need to be able to put a little bit more pressure on people. It didn’t look good at all tonight.”

Gatewood had little trouble breaking the JMA full-court pressure. A few well-placed passes and the visiting Lady Gators often found themselves with easy scoring opportunities. The problem was, they did not convert nearly enough to make the matchup competitive. So while the Lady Trojan press may not have forced the turnovers Gainous was hoping for, it did accomplish one other goal, which was compel the opponent to shoot the ball quickly. 

JMA senior Olivia Rhodes led all scorers with 18 points on the night while freshman Maggie Prestwood put in 16, eight of which came in the game’s opening period. The winning team also got some good hustle play from senior Taylor Prestridge off the bench. Gatewood had seven different girls score, but none had more than six points. 

Only one game stands between the Lady Trojans and region competition. That begins Tuesday when the team is set to travel to Augusta to face Westminster. Coach Gainous said she likes the strides her team has made over the last few weeks with region play drawing closer.

“We’re playing a lot better now,” she said. “Honestly the break was really good for us. We got a lot of good team time, but we played well too. I think we made some serious improvements, and the team’s jiving a lot better than they were at the beginning. Our seniors are stepping up into those leadership roles.”

Before that region road trip to Westminster, the Lady Trojans will host Trinity Christian Saturday at 4:30 p.m. JMA won the earlier meeting this season 63-45 in Dublin. 

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