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Girls Varsity Basketball

February 23, 2019

The girls varsity basketball team was featured on 2.23.19 stltoday.com website, having broken a long losing streak in competition with MICDS. "The MICDS girls basketball program must have missed a payment, because it doesn’t own John Burroughs anymore. The Bombers got a towering performance from 6-foot-2 freshman Vanessa Polk and held on to defeat the Rams 30-28 in the first round of the Class 4 District 5 Tournament on Saturday at Ladue High School, ending 11 years of frustration at the hands of their biggest rival. Burroughs (14-12) will take on top seed Parkway North (20-6) at 7 p.m. February 25 in a district semifinal. 'We all knew, if there was just one game to win, this was the game to win,' said Polk, whose 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots helped John Burroughs end a losing streak against MICDS stretching back to 2008. So it’s no wonder the Bombers celebrated their first-round district win as if they’d just clinched a state title. MICDS junior forward Jessica Brooks failed to get a shot off at the buzzer after her team in-bounded the ball at the other end with just three seconds to play, touching off the Bombers’ rejoicing. 'It’s all about 2008,' said John Burroughs coach John Merritt. 'I mean, we haven’t beaten (MICDS) since 2008. That’s our rival and they all know it. Our alumni, all the girls who’ve been in the program, they’ve been calling us and texting us all week saying, "You guys are gonna be the team to take them out,’ and we did.”' It wasn’t easy. Burroughs entered on a four-game skid, and having already dropped a pair of close ones to MICDS, 34-30 on Jan. 21 and 45-44 on Feb. 8. Then in the first few minutes, the Rams (13-12) struck first with a pair of fast-break baskets by Zaire Harrell to take a 4-0 lead. But the Bombers replied with back-to-back 3-pointers from Ingrid Keane and Kylie Goldfarb, taking a lead they never relinquished, though MICDS hounded them to the final buzzer. 'It’s two evenly-matched teams and they’ve got a lot of talent on their end,' MICDS coach Scott Small. 'They did a good job of keeping us on our heels. In that first half, we did an awful job of shooting the basketball.' MICDS finished the first half hitting just 3 of 19 from the field, which wasn’t any worse than Burroughs’ 4 of 27 showing at the break. But a couple of buckets from Polk and a pair of free throws from Keane had the Bombers up 12-7. The Rams got Brooks going in the second half. The MICDS junior was averaging 18.1 points per game, and she promptly scored four points in the third quarter to pull the Rams within 12-11. Brooks kept up the attack throughout the second half, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds. But in what would become a pattern for the rest of the game, Polk answered every little Rams’ run with a bucket of her own. The imposing freshman scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half, including seven in the fourth quarter. 'I just try to do my job and finish layups,' Polk said. 'Obviously you can’t make every single one, but I try to bring what I can to the court and to the team. Luckily I have some amazing teammates who can hit 3s and hit shots, and who’ll give me assists and all the important stuff so I can do my job down low.' Polk’s imposing presence under the net thwarted the Rams’ offense as well. Her shot swatting denied drives to the hoop and her rebounding left almost no margin for error when MICDS did put up a shot. 'She was a force tonight,' Small said of Polk. 'She was really physical inside, aggressive to the basketball. When they’ve got somebody of that size inside, it’s a disruption, and she did a great job of holding the fort down low.' Added Merritt, 'Vanessa really is a difference maker in the middle. She’s so big, so strong. She’s got good hands and she finishes well. And defensively, she just understands all the things we want to do.' MICDS never relented. The Rams cut a 5-point Burroughs lead to 29-28 with a bucket by Brooks with 53 seconds to play, and then a pair of clutch free throws from senior Ellie Gira with 43 seconds remaining. Gira and Harrell then fouled out before the final seconds ticked away in a tense stalemate of sudden turnovers and missed free throws. 'It’s a credit to our kids that they battled back in that second half, but there were too many rebounds that we turned into turnovers,' Small said. 'But I have to give credit to Burroughs. They put enough pressure on us to turn us over.' The Bombers struggled to secure their win, missing four consecutive free throws in a 30-second stretch of the final minute. 'That isn’t good for a coach’s heart and gray hair,' Merritt said. 'But we pulled it out and managed to win it. We played together, which is what we talked about, playing together from start to finish.'"