AUGUSTA – They called it “The DeMillo Pullback,” and the Winthrop Ramblers had a plan for it Thursday afternoon.

Following that plan nearly to perfection, they shut Jay’s Kaylie DeMillo out in the fourth quarter, and pulled off their second upset of the tournament.

The prolific senior guard used the move, where she would feign a dribble drive before stepping back for an open jumper, to rain six 3-pointers and 34 points on the Ramblers in a 62-49 Jay win on Feb. 1. For the Western C semifinals, the Ramblers were determined not to get caught retreating.

“The whole week of practice, or the last day really, we were practicing against it,” said Winthrop junior guard Justine Woodman. “We knew that when she goes right, she was going to pull back and shoot it, so we just wanted to take away her right hand and let her drive left if she wants and rely on our teammates to have good help defense.”

Woodman, Brianna Tupper and Amanda Garwood teamed up to end DeMillo and Jay’s season Thursday. They took turns harassing her on the perimeter, denied her on the wings, and threw in the occasional bump to throw the senior off her game.

“We picked up a couple of keys on her watching her the last couple of times,” said Winthrop coach Glen Chase, “and we were able to focus our defenders on that, especially hitting that stepback.”

DeMillo didn’t hit very many stepback shots, despite finishing with a game-high 25 points. She shot just 2-for-12 from beyond the 3-point arc, including 0-for-4 in the second half.

Woodman started the game on DeMillo and was effective. Garwood took over late in the first quarter and made her presence known by quickly taking a charge and then making a steal on the Jay point guard. Tupper then took over after Garwood picked up her first foul. With the help of some quick step-out doubling by the likes of Katie Puschard, the trio held DeMillo to just one of nine shooting in the early going.

“We wanted to make sure everybody stayed fresh, everybody could stay on her,” Chase said.

Besides the stepback, the Winthrop defenders noticed another of DeMillo’s keys. She was exposing the ball off the dribble, so the Ramblers started to swipe at the ball, just knocking it away briefly, enough to get DeMillo out of a rhythm.

“We just wanted to kind of get her aggravated and flustered in her dribbling,” said Woodman, who had a crucial steal on DeMillo with 19 seconds left to sew up her game-winning shot.

“She leaves it out there, so I mean, you’ve got to take it,” Tupper said.

“You get a different (officiating) crew and maybe a lot of that gets called,” said Jay coach Chris Bessey. “It wasn’t getting called, and she had to get used to that. To have as much contact as went on throughout the whole game, when she probably got called for four touch fouls – it’s tough for a high school kid to understand where the consistency is.”

DeMillo seemed to find the rhythm in the third quarter, when she hit four of six shot attempts. But with Tupper guarding her, she got off just three shots in the fourth quarter, and one of those was a desperation heave at the buzzer.

Bessey took responsibility for the lack of DeMillo’s involvement in the offense, saying he told the Tigers to be patient on offense and work the ball inside.

“She was doing what she was told,” Bessey said. “The fourth quarter is totally my responsibility. It’s probably the worst quarter I’ve coached in eight years of varsity basketball.”

The Ramblers, for their part, didn’t care why one of the state’s top scorers was blanked during the biggest quarter of the season. They were just glad to be there when it happened.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Tupper said.


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