The game for Taylor Miller begins at midcourt. It's at that spot on the floor where Freeport's point guard has that lockdown look.
"When someone is dribbling up at me, I don't hear anything but the bounce," Miller said. "Once I get my rhythm, it's like a rush, and I just go for it. If I do it right, everything goes as planned and I get the ball."
Miller planned everything right when it came time to taking the ball away from Our Lady of Mercy during the Lady Devils Basketball Invitational Thursday at Freeport.
The majority of Miller's seven steals came before the Lady Mustangs could get past half-court and were the difference in Freeport's 47-39 win.
"It comes naturally to me," said Miller, who finished with a game-high 15 points. "Once you get one, you want to get more and more."
Miller's final steal at midcourt led to an easy layup to open the fourth-quarter scoring to give Freeport (4-1) a 29-27 lead. After a Kelly Wildes jumper tied the score at 29 on Our Lady of Mercy's next possession, forward AJ Smith's three-pointer with 7:10 remaining put the Lady Devils up for good at 32-29.
"I know it was a big basket," said Smith, who supported Miller with 13 points. "I was open and when I'm open I know what has to be done."
The ball wasn't finding its way in the basket throughout much of the first half, which belonged to Our Lady of Mercy (4-3). Desiree Gaeckler and Gabriella Genua each had six points at the break to give the Lady Mustangs a 25-18 lead.
"It's been the story of our season where we lose it offensively," Our Lady of Mercy coach John Kiffel said. "We got to make shots. I thought we had good looks, just didn't make them."
It was Miller who saved the day. She opened up the third quarter by making four consecutive free throws to bring the Lady Devils to within 25-22.
"She is probably one of the quickest guards I've coached," Freeport coach Meredith Jones said. "She has a great sense for poking the ball away without fouling. The team feeds off her energy."
Just ask Lady Devils center Deja Hooks, who had a team-leading seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
"It's natural for Taylor to do what she does," Hooks said. "We need to run down court and be there for her. If she works that hard, we need to work that hard. Defense is the key to our game."
Freeport, the runner-up to Sacred Heart the last three seasons in the tournament, advances to play Division, which beat Calhoun, 62-43, at 1 p.m. today. Huntington defeated Sacred Heart, 54-26, in the later game. Huntington plays St. Joseph Hill at 3 p.m. Friday. St. Joseph Hill defeated Valley Stream Central, 72-47.