Sports Zone, Springfield

Repeat feat? Millers facing early challenges

SPRINGFIELD – There are quite a few reasons why being back-to-back champs – in any sport, at any level – is such a tall task. The Springfield Millers girls basketball team is finding out what challenges they’ll have to face in their repeat attempt as the short-handed Millers went 0-2 last week, losing to Class 6A No. 2 Willamette 59-39 and Class 5A No. 1 Crater 59-49.

The loss to Crater was Springfield’s first loss against a 5A team since the state title loss against Crescent Valley on March 12, 2022. The 20-point loss to Willamette – while not inherently bad as Willamette is a 6A title contender – was a stark reminder that the Millers can’t just show up and win on any given night.

“They’re a good team, and they started hitting some shots on us. We had a few breakdowns defensively, and once they got a little bit of leeway, we kind of just honestly just packed it in. We didn’t really compete after that point,” said Springfield coach Joe Williamson after the Willamette loss. “I’m okay if they hit some shots, but I wasn’t okay that – when they did that – we kind of stopped competing. And so it’s a learning thing for us, because we can’t let that happen.”

Springfield hung with Willamette and trailed by only 5 going into half despite shooting poorly themselves. The 3rd quarter was a different story though as Willamette pushed the pace and led by 15 going into the final frame.

“Absolutely we competed. We know we can compete with them. We had no doubt that we could beat them and compete with them. We didn’t shoot well enough in the first half to do anything but be within five,” Williamson said. “I mean, we shot 25% from the field in the first half, and we’re down five. So yeah, we shoot better, finish better, and then maybe we’re up at half.”

Springfield head coach Joe Williamson talks with the team during a timeout. Williamson said after the game he felt like the Millers “kind of stopped competing” at times.

Unexpected attrition

Last season, Springfield’s starting five for much of the season was Alexi Morgan, JB Robinson, Ryan Marshall, Juju Henderson, and Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam. Morgan graduated and Henderson isn’t playing this season, but the Millers still returned three starters and added a sister-duo in Sheldon transfers Diamond and Kimora Wright.

Now, though, the Millers look a little different. Robinson – 2nd team all-state last season – moved back to Georgia, where she initially transferred from, and Marshall is likely done for the season with a knee injury. Kimora Wright also missed time with an ankle injury.

“We’re definitely shorthanded, but we got some girls that came off the bench – Mylah (Wilson) played really hard, hit a shot for us and took care of the ball,” Williamson said. “I thought Sailor (Hall) played well off the bench for us, and Iyahna Woodard came in and gave us some good minutes as well.”

As Williamson mentioned, the bench is still deep as Springfield returns Wilson and Darissa Romero-Ah Sam – both key players off the bench in last year’s title run. There’s going to be an adjustment period, but one Williamson is confident the team can make.

“There’s an adjustment period because you know your team when it’s at full strength. And then you lose some players and there’s an adjustment period in kind of rebuilding around the players that you have,” Williamson said. “I think we’ll be fine, but it definitely hurts. But we have some good players who are capable of stepping up.”

Springfield’s Diamond Wright (4) dribbles upcourt in the Willamette loss. Wright, a transfer from Sheldon with her younger sister Kimora, led the Millers with 13 points.

Diamond Wright led the way with 13 points and 5 rebounds against Willamette, while Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam had 8 and Sailor Hall had 9. Older sisters Diamond and Danaeja will carry much of the burden for the 7-6 Millers – who are still ranked No. 3 because of their difficult schedule. Williamson has faith though that the two stars can help the team succeed with the pieces they have in the building.

“We need them to be aggressive but also get their teammates involved. We have some very good shooters around the perimeter. And I thought Diamond did that tonight – she attacked and hit shooters off the dribble,” Williamson said. “That’s going to be big for us because we’re going to need more than Diamond and Danaeja. We’re going to need other players to step up and they have the ability, it’s just going to take us rebuilding this team around who we have, and building a trust moving forward.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos