The season opener for Aberdeen's No. 1 girls basketball team came against a Milford Mill team that had hoped to avenge its loss in last season's Class 3A North regional championship.
The Millers, however, will have to wait until March and the next regional playoffs to get that revenge.
Once again, the Eagles' 6-foot-3 center, Brionna Jones, presented a challenge the Millers could not overcome as she scored 21 points and had 17 rebounds in leading Aberdeen to a 67-52 victory in the season opener for both teams Thursday night at the Beast of the East Showcase at St. Frances.
Jones, last year's All-Metro Player of the Year, scored 40 in the regional title victory over Milford Mill last March, a win that propelled the Eagles to their first state championship.
On Thursday night, Jones scored nine points in the first quarter as the Eagles rolled up a 15-7 lead.
Just as they did last year, the Millers rallied, cutting the lead to 16-14 on Qierra Murray's 3-pointer late in the first quarter, but Jones hit a follow shot and Nazje Norton made a 3-pointer to end the quarter and spark a 14-2 Eagles run that ended when Jones' sister, 6-1 freshman forward Stephanie Jones, hit a layup.
Early in the second half, the Millers cut the lead to 43-34 on All-Metro guard Dionna White's free throw, but the Eagles scored the next six points and boosted their lead as high as 23 late in the fourth quarter.
"Our guards played hard, the freshmen stepped up when they needed to and everybody just worked hard together," said Brionna Jones, a Maryland-bound senior.
One of the big problems for the Millers came at the free-throw line where they hit just nine of 27 attempts.
"This is probably our toughest competition so far even with scrimmages and we have to gel a little more," Milford Mill coach DeToiya McAliley said. "I want to see the little things done — free-throw shooting, defense, rebounding, closing out the shooter, recognizing the players that are their go-to players."
Stephanie Jones finished with 17 points and Norton added 10, while Jimmia McCluskey and Kierra Palmer scored eight each for the Eagles. Murray and White scored 16 each for the Millers.
A—Norton 10, McCluskey 8, S.Jones 17, Palmer 8. B.Jones 21, E.Jones 3. Totals 24 16-27 67.
M—Murray 16, Smoot 5, White 16, Booker 3, Lewis 4, Hutchinson 2, McKenzie 4, Terry 2. Totals 19 9-27 52.
Half: A, 41-28