Carver guard Mya Millner is in a position no Lady Tiger has ever been in before.
Millner and teammate Maliyah Holloway are the only seniors on a Carver squad preparing for the program’s first championship game appearance. After another strong season, Millner — who has started all four years — gets the chance to walk away from the program as a champion.
After going through another rigorous practice Wednesday, Millner caught her breath and spoke about the days leading up to the rematch with Columbus.
“It’s been a hard week,” Millner said. “We’ve be preparing for Columbus and working hard. There’s no days off and no slacking.”
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Millner’s senior season at Carver has featured considerable development in her game. The result has been noticeable, as she has hit key shots in big moments while the Lady Tigers piled up victories.
Their run culminates Friday at Georgia Tech with their fourth meeting of the season with the Lady Blue Devils. Getting to this point required growth from Millner, who gradually stepped back this season and let the game come to her rather than trying to make something out of nothing.
Asked what she wants out of her final game, Millner offered a short and simple response.
“Winning a state championship and getting a ring,” Millner said.
Shooting her shot
No moment better displays Millner’s growth than her biggest shot of the season.
Trailing Columbus 53-51 with 12 seconds left in the Region 1-4A tournament title game, Carver’s Ja’Nya Love-Hill hurried the ball up the court before dumping it off to Alycia Reese. Reese held the ball momentarily over her head before Millner got her attention at the top of the arc.
“All I remember is calling (Reese’s) name,” Millner said. “She passed it to me and I shot it.”
The shot proved on point, sending the Carver players and their fans into an energized frenzy.
Mariah Igus was standing to Millner’s left when she sent the ball flying toward the backboard. Igus said she was scared before the shot went up, but as it got closer and closer to the rim, she thought about all the times Millner had done the same thing in practice.
“She gives us what we need at the time that we need it,” Igus said.
Carver head coach Anson Hundley praised Millner after the game, saying that type of play was what the team needed from her. Nearly one month later, Hundley circled back to that 3-pointer to illustrate how Millner has come into her own on the court.
“She used to be a player who really tried to force the game and make things happen that might not have even been there,” Hundley said. “Throughout this year, she has slowly learned to let the game come to her, take the shots she should take and impact the game in every aspect of it, not just scoring.”
Millner’s shot to down the Lady Blue Devils was a dramatic example of her stepping up, but it’s not the only case of it down the stretch.
She along with Igus and Reese were pivotal in the third quarter of the Lady Tigers’ semifinal win over Cross Creek, each making 3-pointers that helped Carver keep up with the Lady Razorbacks and dominant forward Alana Davis. In Carver’s quarterfinals win, she made a wild layup from under the basket with five-and-a-half minutes left that sparked Carver and was the beginning of the end for Jefferson.
In those two victories, Millner walked off the court with 23 points.
Once Friday’s game concludes, Millner turns her attention to Alabama State, the school she signed with in November. Hundley said in terms of the college level, Millner can create all kinds of mismatches due to her size as a guard. He stressed that if she continues working on her game, her transition can be a fruitful one.
But before Millner’s thoughts turn to Alabama State, she’s got another game to play.
Millner said she knew since the summer Carver was capable of challenging for a championship but understood getting to that point would be grueling and strenuous. Now on the precipice of the biggest win in program history, there’s no hint of her letting up.
“I think she’s taking it in,” Hundley said. “She wants it, and she’s coming in and working hard on a daily basis in order to get herself prepared for this game.”
Millner said her parents, Belvin and Mary, and one of her sisters will be in the stands at McCamish Pavilion to watch her play her last game for Carver. The title game against Columbus could very well come down to the wire just like that February meeting, and from the way Millner has played in the final games of her career, the ball could end up in her hands at crunch time again.
Whether she’s the one who drains the winning shot or stands by as a teammate delivers doesn’t matter to Millner, just as long as she can call herself a champion when the final buzzer echos in the arena.
“I want it,” Millner said. “I really want to win it.”