PORT ANGELES — After practice in advance of the Class 2A state tournament, Port Angeles’ Millie Long shrugged off a question about dealing with the duties associated with starting at point guard as a high school freshman in much the same manner she handled opposition defenders this season — with ease.
Instead of focusing on the potential pressures associated with running the point for a state-bound girls basketball team Long took a healthier point of view.
“I don’t really think of it as, ‘Oh, my word it’s a high school game,’ I think of it more as a new game with different teammates,” Long said. “I’m doing the same things, playing the same position since I was in fourth grade. I’ve felt some pressure, but I don’t know, I’m all right with it.”
In a stand-out season for girls basketball on the North Olympic Peninsula, Long stood out as the best player on the best team, helping guide the Roughriders to a 20-6 record, a share of the Olympic League 2A Division title, three wins in four games against state-bound league foe North Kitsap, and Port Angeles’ first state tournament appearance since 2014.
Long notched team-highs in points (11.8 per game), steals (4) and assists (2.7), stats that showcased her ability on both ends of the floor.
“Millie’s teammates voted her the most valuable player on our team,” Riders head coach Michael Poindexter said. [Olympic] League coaches voted her MVP of the league.”
The latter selection, a freshman league MVP is a real rarity, with most league accolades typically going to upperclassmen. That’s how good Long was for Port Angeles.
And Long’s also the All-Peninsula Girls Basketball MVP as determined by area coaches and the sports staff of the Peninsula Daily News. It’s the second All-Peninsula MVP honor for Long, she also was picked as the girls soccer MVP last fall.
Pretty heady stuff for such a young athlete.
“It’s kind of like soccer,” Long said of how she initially approached the season. “I just wanted to fit in at first and make friends with the other players. As the season went on I wanted to help the team out in whatever way I could, help them win, and we worked together pretty well.”
Long, well-associated with the Port Angeles basketball program after attending her older sister Gracie’s practices and games, enjoyed having the opportunity to play alongside her sibling — and four other Rider seniors.
“I really wanted to make varsity because it was my sister’s last year playing basketball,” Long said. “I wanted to play with her this last year and Cheyenne [Wheeler] and all the seniors too, they were super nice and fun to play with.”
The sisterly bond was displayed on court, Long said.
“We have our own little plays where we can just look at each other and know to make a cut or to get the ball without saying anything,” she said.
Long credited each Riders’ ability to embrace their respective roles on-court and off as part of the reason Port Angeles accomplished so much this past winter.
“We all had our own role on the team and had different people doing good things at different positions,” she said. “I would get down on myself at times, and there were people that were there that were encouraging and lifted me up. Our chemistry was good and we really wanted it too. Even if our skill was lacking, we would want the game, we would want to win, and that showed through.”
Long upped her game against tougher competition, her scoring rising to 12.2 points per game in the team’s 10 toughest contests (Class 3A Peninsula, Burlington-Edison, Mark Morris, the four games against North Kitsap, plus White River, Archbishop Murphy, and East Valley — six of these seven teams would make their respective state tournaments and Archbishop Murphy and East Valley placed second and fifth, respectively, in 2A).
She pointed to a come-from-behind win over Class 4A Hazen in December, a game in which Long scored a team-high 14 points, and the Riders’ 37-36 district semifinal triumph over North Kitsap, Port Angeles’ third win over the Vikings in a two-week span, as two highlights from a season packed with memorable moments.
“Playing Hazen and beating them, I loved that one, and getting to the district championship game, that was great,” Long said.
As for next season, Long is hoping she and the team can improve at “playing under more control and making smarter decisions,” she said.
Juggling soccer, basketball and now track and field where she set a Port Angeles High School freshman hurdles record last week, Long is focused on improvement.
“I want to work on everything, but the specific thing is to make better, more accurate, more powerful passes,” she said. “Sometimes I would make these lazy little passes that would get stolen. So I want to take every pass and make sure they are to the right spot.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]