Anyone who’s kept up with Harnett Central’s girls basketball team over the last few years knows that the Trojans constantly preach about the importance of playing good defense. Whether they’re in man-to-man, a 3-2 zone or their patented “Mountain Cat” press defense, it all starts with one person: junior point guard Brittany Mills.
Mills is the one who makes everything “go” for Central. She’s the one playing at the head of the defense, the one who brings the initial pressure. Everything she does sets up the way the rest of the team is going to play. She’s currently averaging a team-high 3.1 steals per game.
“I’m the one who has to bring the energy,” Mills said. “If I come out flat, everyone else is flat. But if I come out playing hard and put the other team under pressure, everyone else starts playing hard too. It’s my job to set the tone.”
That tone was just right in Friday’s massively important win over Union Pines. The Trojans won 32-28 in a defensive struggle, just the type of game they like to play.
“It started off really back and forth at first,” Mills said. “But I thought we were finally able to pull away in the second half because of our defense. We were able to get stops when we needed them.”
Friday night’s game was more than just a win in Central’s Tri-County Conference opener though, as it was a rematch between last year’s regular season co-champs. Union Pines won last year’s opening meeting 62-38, while Central won the second 47-46. The Vikings broke the regular season split with a 43-20 blowout win in the conference championship game, something that still doesn’t sit well with Mills and her teammates.
“Coming into this season, we talked about not just wanting to share a conference championship, but to win the conference outright,” Mills said. “That’s a win that can set the tone for the rest of our season and something we can continue to build on. I still feel like we can get a lot better, we’ve just got to continue working hard in practice. If we play like we’re capable, we feel like we can beat them again and win the conference tournament.”
In addition to Mills’ leadership on defense, she also runs the show for the Trojans’ offense. Whether it’s pushing the ball forward for a fast break or slowing things down to run the half court offense, Mills is the one pushing all the buttons. And more often than not, she gets it right. She’s currently second on the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and first in assists with 3.8 per game.
Mills, along with junior center Syniah McMiller (14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.7 blocks per game) and junior shooting guard Lya Molyneaux (13.3 points per game on 36% shooting from 3-point range), helps form a fearsome trio for the Trojans. McMiller, who had a game-high 18 points in the win over Union Pines, is the dominant presence inside who can take over a game at any time. Molyneaux is the outside shooter who stretches the defense and gives her teammates room to operate inside. And Mills is the hand who feeds them both, carefully choosing when to dish it inside, when to kick it out and when to drive and take it herself.
“We’re so good together on the court because we’re such good friends off the court,” Mill said. “We always hang out together and we all just have really good chemistry with each other. We know each other so well and we understand how to help each other.”
Right now, Mills’ top priority is to help Central win a conference championship. She even thinks the Trojans could make it to the third round of the NCHSAA state playoffs this year if everything goes right. But she’s already excited for the potential of next season’s team, with her, McMiller and Molyneaux returning for their senior year.
“We’ve got to work hard to accomplish our goals this season,” Mills said. “But I’m also thinking about more than just this season. I’d like to reach 1,000 points next year if I can, maybe even play in college if I get the opportunity. But more than anything, I want to be remembered when I leave. That starts with continuing to work hard and continuing to get better.”
Below is a list of some of Brittany’s favorite things, as well as her ideal dinner guest list and whom she’d want with her to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Favorite Color: Light blue
Favorite Food: Italian food
Favorite Restaurant: Olive Garden
Favorite Music Genre: Rap
Favorite Subject: History
Favorite Teacher: Catherine Griffin
Favorite Sport: Basketball
Ideal Dinner Guest List: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart
Ideal Group to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: “My dad, because he’s strong and smart, and Syniah McMiller and Lya Molyneaux, because we dominate on the basketball court together so we can work well as a team.”