By Chris Chaney
The cold weather has seeped into the Milford Lady Eagles’ fingers as poor shooting has put head coach Kristi McKenney’s team’s backs against the wall 13 games into the season.
“We were playing pretty well up until this week when we hit a cold spell with our shooting,” McKenney said. “We’ve lost two in a row and they were two big games. We’ve made it pretty hard on ourselves and I told (the team) we need to win out. We can’t lose if we want to have a chance at the (Eastern Cincinnati Conference) title.”
After dropping two difficult opening games to the season against Talawanda and Seton, the Lady Eagles ripped off seven wins in their next nine games to get to 7-4 and right in the hunt, but a pair of league losses on Jan. 8 to Glen Este and Jan. 11 to Walnut Hills have Milford in a tough spot.
“They want to win so bad,” the coach said. “This past week was finals week and we had snow days; we just need to get our mojo back and get playing like we were.”
Perhaps most frustrating of all is that Milford, even when not playing their best, are competitive, yet unable to squeak out those close wins. In their six losses, the largest margin of defeat has been 10 points.
The Lady Eagles’ balanced attack boasts nine players who average more than two points per game with senior Brooke McDonald and sophomore Kelly Noll leading the way.
“If you look at the stats, Brooke and Kelly lead us in scoring, but when we lose, they don’t score a lot,” McKenney explained. “Our bench has been tremendous and everyone that comes in gives us a spark. When our leading scorers aren’t scoring well, we always get scoring from our bench.
“I truly believe that we are a very good team, we just need everyone to put it together on the same night.”
One player that is there every night is senior point guard Bridget Rheude. Coming off of an ACL tear a year ago, Rheude is McKenney’s eyes and ears on the court. Averaging 6.3 points per night, 3.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals, Rheude is a stat sheet stuffer.
“Bridget cannot come off the floor for us,” McKenney said. “She does so many little things for us, no matter if she scores zero points or nine points, she controls the game for us.
“She’s the heart and soul of our team, really.”
Along with the three other seniors on the team, Rheude would like to go out with a conference championship. At 3-3 in the league, the Lady Eagles aren’t in the driver’s seat, but they aren’t out of the hunt, either.
Milford is two games back of league-leading Walnut Hills and they can close that gap with a strong showing in their next three games, all conference contests.
The Lady Eagles hosted Turpin on Jan. 15, a rematch of a game Milford lost by six in early December, then host Anderson on Saturday, Jan. 18. An away game at Loveland on Jan. 22 wraps up their three-game stretch that could prove to catapult the Lady Eagles into second place with a potentially huge game against Walnut Hills on Senior Night on Feb. 8 with major ECC implications on the line.
“The second half of the season is a new season. That’s how we have to look at it,” McKenney said. “We could have been in a good position, but now we have to climb from the middle and we have to win out. We need to compete and continue to get better.
“This is the part of the season where teams can either be satisfied with the way that they’re playing or you can want to get better. One of this team’s goals is to win a tournament game, so we won’t be happy to lose.
“This team wants to win.”