- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Naaila Cooke said she only had to give her Northern teammates a look and they knew what she was up to.
And it worked handily as Cooke came off the bench to score 21 points and help the host Patriots (10-7, 4-3 SMAC) roll to a 75-40 win over Great Mills on Monday.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Patriots and Cooke was a large reason why Northern reached its season-high point total.
On multiple occasions, Cooke said she only had to make eye contact with her teammates and then race down the court to receive a quick outlet pass and score the easy layup.
The modus operandi helped the senior guard score eight unanswered points over the first and second quarters and nine during a 10-point run in the third.
“That was like my signature thing,” Cooke said. “My team knows that when I give them that eye that I’ll always be down there.”
“We like to get it out and run if we can and Naaila’s pretty fast so if we can get her the ball, we’re in pretty good shape,” Northern head coach Brad Kingsbury said. “If we don’t get the layup, we pull it out and hopefully, run our offense, [but] Naaila was key. She didn’t have her best game against Westlake or Friendship and we go as her. If she plays well, we have a good chance of winning.”
And Kingsbury said it was critical for the Patriots to put their last two games behind them. Last Wednesday, Northern dropped a 25-point decision to Westlake and then blew a 17-point halftime lead en route to a 74-70 loss to Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, D.C.
“We had to put those games behind us,” Kingsbury said. “The Westlake game that was tough, they’re a good team so we had to play our absolute best to beat them. The other game [against Friendship] we had it and let it get away so that was our fear tonight. I didn’t sleep Friday night and a lot of the girls were upset about it, too. We had to turn it around and I think we did tonight.”
“Oh my gosh, it was just terrible,” Cooke said of the back-to-back losses. “We took [Friday night’s defeat] very hard. It was very important because we can’t look back, we have to keep moving forward.”
Mauri Miller scored a game-high 23 points and Kassidy Cross added eight for Northern, which is without forward/center Qyntia Parks-Lewis, who is out indefinitely with back spasms.
“I didn’t even start, but that’s not the point,” Cooke said. “Anyone can come off the bench and just put points on the board. That’s what we need. It’s not about who starts or who finishes, it’s that we finish strong.”
Northern went on a 19-5 first quarter-ending run and led 39-24 at halftime. The Patriots put the game away with a 17-point run in the third quarter.
“Normally we’re in games,” Great Mills head coach Matthew Wood said. “This team just came out and beat us at will and I think they outrebounded us. Even when somebody wasn’t there and it was an even footrace, they seemed to beat us to the basket. They have good coaching and good athletes.”
Tyniece Woodland scored a team-high 16 points for the Hornets (7-9, 3-4) thanks in part to three three-pointers.
“They just outran us on defense,” Woodland said. “I think we gave up a little. I’m seeing improvement every day [but] we also need to play team ball.”
“Give Great Mills credit,” Kingsbury said. “They didn’t quit.”
Wood said his squad, which has three seniors and three sophomores, is making strides.
“We’re still getting there,” he said. “The effort’s there, so I’m always happy with that. Some nights our shots fall and some nights it’s a little tougher and when it’s a little tougher we need other things to be there; the rebounding, the hustle, the defense. We can do a better job.”