SYRACUSE — The underscore came from the Cooperstown students at the Carrier Dome last Thursday, when Liz Millea accepted the tournament MVP award after leading the Redskins to the Section Three Class C girls basketball championship.
“She’s a freshman,” the students chanted syllable by syllable.
It would be cliche to say Millea doesn’t play like freshman, but ...
“I’m shocked,” she said about winning the award. “I was not at all expecting it, but it feels really good.”
Millea earned Cooperstown’s vacant point guard position from nearly the moment practice began in the fall.
“She was put in that position by the third day of practice,” Cooperstown senior center Nicole Cring said. “I don’t know how she does it.”
Millea took over for Holli Erkson, who started all but one game for Wells this season and finished second in team scoring. Millea has been just as hot in her first varsity season at Cooperstown.
“When we saw Liz play last March and the girls knew she would play varsity, they were excited,” Cooperstown coach Mike Niles said. “They had played with her in AAU or at the gym. I think they knew before I did that she would be our point guard.
“Every time I have a little question mark about whether she can handle the pressure because she’s a freshman, she’s like, ‘No problem. I can handle it,’ and she does,” he continued.
Millea’s scored a game-high 26 points against Little Falls in the Section Three Class C-1 final Feb. 23 at Onondaga Community College. She scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished one shy of her varsity best.
“We knew Liz was getting by people easily,” Niles told The Daily Star after the game. “We were calling some ball-screen stuff for her and she had some baskets off of broken stuff. I don’t think the perimeter people they had were quick enough to guard her off of the dribble.”
That’s probably what happened Dec. 7, too, when Millea put up her varsity high of 27 points against Mohawk during the second game of the season.
“We’re blessed in that she has a natural awareness about the game,” Niles said of Millea, who ranks second on the team in points 11.3 (per game) and assists and is first in steals. “A lot of times, it takes years to develop that kind of on-court intelligence.”
Some of Millea’s teammates said they think highly of her as well.
“She’s funny and goofy and always happy,” Cring said. “She always has a smile on her face. She’s another one that you can always find practicing. If you don’t know where she is, she is probably at the Clark (Sports Center) shooting baskets.”
Senior Sumer Murdock, who also made the all-tournament team, added: “She’s a leader on this team. She pushes people to get better.”