By Greg Klein
---- — The underscore came from the Cooperstown students in the crowd Feb. 28 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse as Liz Millea accepted the tournament Most Valuable Player Award after Cooperstown’s girls basketball team won the Section Three Class C title.
“She’s a freshman,” the students chanted.
It would be cliche to say Millea doesn’t play like freshman. She just plays like a talented one.
“I’m shocked,” she said about winning the award. “I was not at all expecting it, but it feels really good.”
Millea took over 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 not only played at Wells this year, but started all but one game for the Express and was second on the team in scoring. Yet, it was Erkson’s replacement, Millea, who had the Cooperstown girls fired up.
“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 earned her MVP honors by scoring a game-high 26 points against Little Falls in the C-1 finals on March 23 at Onondaga Community College. The point total was one away from her varsity high, and included 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“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,” he continued.
Millea’s varsity high came in the second game of the season, when she scored 27 points against Mohawk on Dec. 7. On the season, Millea is the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 11.3 points per game. She leads the team in steals and is second in assists.
“We’re blessed in that she has a natural awareness about the game,” Niles said. “A lot of times it takes years to develop that kind of on-court intelligence.”
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.”