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Lady Buffs primed for tourney run

Kelly Hodge • Feb 20, 2013 at 10:43 PM

Good things are happening for the Milligan College women’s basketball team.

The Lady Buffs head into the Appalachian Athletic Conference tournament today as the No. 1 seed, after winning 10 of their last 11 games. On Wednesday night, senior guard Johneshia Good was named the league’s co-player of the year and defensive player of the year.

“It’s been a great year for our team so far,” said Good, a former Science Hill standout. “Basketball to me is a team game, and any postseason awards for me individually are because of my team.”

Backcourt mate Kayla Kelly joined Good on the all-conference first team. Jaimee Hill was named to the second team, and Allison Jones made the all-freshman team. Rich Aubrey was coach of the year.

Good began her college career at East Tennessee State but played just one season before looking for a different environment. At the time, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to continue playing basketball.

She recommitted to the game after talking with her father John and younger brothers C.J. and Patrick, who are currently key players for the second-ranked Hilltoppers.

“I think it turned out to be a good decision,” she said. “And going to Milligan was the best thing I ever did. I’ve grown up a whole lot, basketball-wise and personally.”

Good averaged 13.2 points a game and led the Lady Buffs in assists and steals. She has her team primed to make a strong run this week at MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport.

The Lady Buffs (23-8) will face eighth-seeded Columbia (9-22) in the quarerfinals this morning at 8:30. Aubrey likes the idea of basketball at breakfast time.

“I think it’s an advantage for us,” said Aubrey. “We’ll be playing a team that had less than 24 hours of rest, and if we win we’ll get added rest before the next game. That means more as the tournament goes along.”

The Milligan men, meanwhile, will play at 1:45 against Reinhardt in the 4-5 quarterfinal.

The Lady Buffs head into postseason play on quite a roll. Their only loss in the last five weeks came at Bryan, which is seeded fourth.

Aubrey says he has a confident group that doesn’t shy away from the favorite’s label this week.

“Our players like being the 1-seed, and I think that’s the mentality you want to have,” he said. “We’ve just continued to grow as a team, and our confidence has grown. When we’ve needed people to make plays, they have. Johneshia is probably first and foremost to do that, but we’ve had a lot of people step up.”

Milligan went 16-2 in the AAC to finish two games ahead of Tennessee Wesleyan, the preseason favorite. Union was another two games back in third.

The Lady Buffs won both matchups with Columbia during the regular season, but the last one was close, 87-83. The Fighting Koalas led with five minutes left.

“Columbia is very athletic, and we’ll have to play well,” said Aubrey. “We have to stop their dribble penetration and keep them off the offensive boards.”

While Aubrey’s team has been rolling along, it was a difficult finish to the regular season for the Milligan men.

The Buffs (17-12) were challenging Tennessee Wesleyan at the top of the league standings when they went to Reinhardt on Jan. 31. They lost that game 92-91, then dropped their next four to close the regular season with a 9-7 conference record.

“We lost Scott Blake, our shooter, to an ACL injury the last game with Reinhardt,” said coach Bill Robinson. “People have been packing it in on defense more against us, and we haven’t been able to make those open jump shots. It was a tough way to end the regular season.”

The last two games in the streak were a 30-point loss at Wesleyan and a 19-point defeat at Point.

“You might think after losing five straight that everybody would be down,” said Robinson, “but this is a high-character group. If any team can bounce back, this is it.”

Now the Buffs have to try to stem the tide and keep their season going against the Eagles. The teams split during the regular season, with Milligan winning the first game 88-82.

The third matchup will again be a study in contrasts.

“We’re almost polar opposites,” said Robinson. “They start five guards and press and penetrate and dish. They may not throw it in the post all night. We want to play inside out.”

The winner will likely get top-seeded Wesleyan in the semifinals on Friday. The Bulldogs, ranked 14th nationally this week, lost their conference opener at Point, then reeled off 15 straight wins to win the regular-season title by five games.

“They got everybody back during the break and just took off,” said Robinson. “They’re really good.”

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