PORT ANGELES — The basketball world doesn’t have to revolve around Port Angeles junior point guard Millie Long. And that’s an uplifting fact for a Roughriders squad that grew together exponentially this past season.
A shark-like blur on the court, Long’s signature abilities include fast-twitch reflexes that help her pick the pockets of opposition ball handlers, court vision used for reading ball movement and intercepting passes, passing instincts that allow her to throw a teammate open and the arm to fit the ball through tight windows of space.
Long possesses the skills to make all of her teammates better.
“There are so many things that stand out,” Port Angeles head coach Michael Poindexter said of Long’s game.
“The unselfishness is not just ball distribution. It is, but it is the emotional maturity that it doesn’t have to revolve around her on the court. There’s a pride in that passing ability and its justifiable.
“There’s a real willingness to put the ball in other people’s hands and letting them make the play.”
Long said her style of play boils down to a desire to win.
“I’m not worried about setting my shot up,” Long said. “The goal is to get the best shot up and score and I’m not worried about who makes the shot — I just want one of us to make that shot. I just want to win, you know, so I don’t care who’s hitting them.”
And the Riders won and won big, rolling through the Olympic League slate undefeated, earning a back-to-back district championship and a win at the Class 2A state tournament, the team’s third consecutive trip.
Long led Port Angeles (20-7) in a host of statistical categories, putting up the most points per game (13), the most assists (4.6), and steals (3.3). She also was second in rebounding with 4.7 boards each time out and hit 44.4 percent of her shots, good for second on the team.
An easy choice as a first-team All-Olympic League selection, Long is the 2019-20 All-Peninsula Girls Basketball MVP as determined by area coaches and the sports staff of the Peninsula Daily News.
It’s the third straight All-Peninsula honor for Long. She was picked as the girls soccer MVP for the third straight season last fall and was the girls track MVP after winning the state championship in the 300 hurdles last spring.
Tiger Woods’ run of consecutive major golf championships over a 365-day period was dubbed the Tiger Slam. Welcome to the Millie Slam.
Long adjusted her methods a bit in order to get better looks and draw contact on drives to the rim.
“She shows great coachability in changing and adapting her attacks inside once she reaches the paint,” Poindexter said. And taking higher-percentage shots that also get her to the free throw line more often. Shots with a greater chance of going in and shots with a greater chance of her shooting free throws.”
Long credits standing tall — being more aggressive on her drives and growing taller for her rise — along with the continued refinement of a different type of shot.
“I just think trying to be a little more aggressive when I go to the hoop and come away with a basket or get to the free throw line,” Long said.
“I’ve had trouble with my layups. Sometimes I’ve just thrown them up or I’ve been out of control going up for them. And you have to stay in control to get the call.
“And that floater in the lane, we work on it a lot in practice. My Dad [Kenton] would work on it with me outside of organized basketball. My coaches and parents say that’s something that really makes me a better player because when you are driving in and you have a big post in the way, you can put up a nice floater over the top of the defense.”
At 5-foot-9, Long is still adjusting to her height.
“It’s so weird now being tall, because I always used to be the shorter one. I sometimes forget that I’m tall and if I have a small defender on me I won’t post up.”
Poindexter said Long also has been an on-court beacon for her teammates, guiding them by example or even with a look.
“I really commend her on-court influence as a stabilizer for us,” Poindexter said.
“When she has the ball in her hands and every member of the team looking at her, they need to know we are OK. They need reassurance and calm when we look at her. Like if we are down, we can get back into this. There’s an unspoken message that she can communicate to the team through her play. And I thought that was a key part of our resilience this year, not buying into panic or self pity.”
But even six-time All-Peninsula MVPs will make mistakes. In those rare instances, Long said she reminds herself her teammates are there for her.
“I just have to remind myself that its not going to help the team out to pout over a bad play,” Long said. “I need to move on, focus on the team and not on how bad you’ve done. We all kind of help each other and I know if I am struggling my teammates will always help me out, encourage me and help me get through those times.”
The 2019-20 All-Peninsula Girls Basketball Team
MVP: Millie Long, jr., G, Port Angeles.
• Eve Burke, so., F, Port Angeles — Averaged 11.7 points per game with team-highs in shooting percentage (51.2 percent) and rebounds (6.8) to earn first-team All-Olympic League honors.
• Jayla Julmist, jr., P, Sequim — First-team All-Olympic League pick totaled 10 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals, two assists and 1.4 blocks each time out for Wolves.
• Jaida Wood, jr., F, Port Angeles — Pushed Port Angeles to third straight state trip by providing 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.
• Rian Peters, sr., F, Forks — Second-team All-Evergreen League pick posted 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists per game. Four-time Spartans girls basketball MVP.
• Chloe Leverington, jr., P, Forks — Averaged a double-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds plus 2.5 steals and two blocks.
• Hope Glasser, sr., F, Sequim — First-team All-Olympic Leaguer was one of four Wolves to score 10 or more points per game. Also averaged four rebounds, 2.7 assists and two steals.
• Kalli Wiker, jr., F, Sequim — Second-team All-Olympic League sharpshooter tied school record for made 3-pointers in two different games this season. Averaged 10.7 points, three rebounds and two assists.
• Ruth Moss, jr., G/F, Neah Bay —Red Devils’ floor leader was counted on by Neah Bay coaching staff.
• Jessica Dietzman, sr., G, Sequim — Wolves’ point guard put up 10.3 points, four rebounds, 2.7 assists and two steals.
• Izzy Hammett, sr., P, Port Townsend — First-team All-Olympic League pick was a double-double machine for the Redhawks.
• Bailee Larson, so., G, Port Angeles — Teamed with Long to produce potent defensive backcourt for Port Angeles. Totaled 6.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists for Riders.
• Mikkiah Brady, sr., G, Port Angeles — Team captain provided ample leadership to her Riders’ teammates. Second-team All-Olympic Leaguer put up 6.1 points per game.
Honorable Mention: Laila Greene, jr., G, Neah Bay; Katie Clark, jr., G, Chimacum; Cei’J Gagnon, sr., F, Neah Bay; Amber Swan, jr., G/F, Clallam Bay; Cedar Johnson, jr., G, Clallam Bay; Gina Brown, jr., P, Port Townsend; Kadie Wood, fr., Forks.
Coaching Staff of the Year: Port Angeles. Riders lost the reigning Olympic League MVP and dealt with health scares for head coach Michael Poindexter, but still found ample success this season, earning third-straight league title, back-to-back district championship and third-straight state tournament berth.