Time is starting to grow short for the Milligan College basketball team.
Only five games remain in the regular season, and possible playoff positions are coming into focus in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. With Union (13-1) holding a three-game lead in the standings, the race appears to be for second place.
Bryan and Reinhardt each have four losses, and Tennessee Wesleyan has five. Milligan is in fifth place at 7-6.
The Buffs had their five-game winning streak snapped at Union 102-94 last Thursday night. It was the 11th straight win for the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs, who improved to 21-3 overall.
“They’re pretty good,” Milligan coach Bill Robinson said Tuesday. “We didn’t play that bad up there last week. We were down three with a minute left and just needed a break — a steal or missed free throw — but didn’t get it.
“Union has depth, bigs and athleticism, and they added a guard who’s a scorer. They’re going to be hard to beat.”
The Buffs (13-8) can still make up some ground over the next two weeks. They host Bryan on Saturday and visit Reinhardt on Feb. 12.
First up is a home game tonight against last-place Truett-McConnell.
“You want to be in the top six at the end, so you’re not in the play-in game. That’s the first goal,” said Robinson. “After that, you want to be opposite Union, so you might possibly face them in the final.
“We have two games at home this week and obviously have to get those. Our spirits are still really good. All things considered, I think this team is ready to make a late run.”
The women’s standings also show Milligan having to play catch-up, and needing more than a couple of breaks.
The Lady Buffs (14-9, 10-5) trail front-running Tennessee Wesleyan (16-3, 13-2) by three games with five to play. They have already split with the 21st-ranked Lady Bulldogs, handing them one of their two conference losses.
The AAC is strong at the top this season, with Union (12-3) and Bryan (10-4) also in double figures with wins. The bottom seven teams all have losing records.
Milligan saw its chances of contending for a regular-season title take a pair of hits last week with losses to Union and Tennessee Wesleyan. It rebounded to win at Columbia 91-79 on Saturday.
The Lady Buffs host Truett-McConnell (8-10, 6-8) tonight.
The baseball season officially began for Milligan last Saturday with a double-header at Bethel in McKenzie.
There wasn’t much offense to be found by the Buffs on the first day of February as they were swept 4-1 and 5-1. A third game on Sunday was cancelled.
Shortstop Luke Kirk went 3 for 6 at the plate, and second baseman Corey McPherson and first baseman Tyler Weir each had a pair of hits for Milligan in the double-header.
The Buffs will try again Saturday when they host Johnson University for two games, beginning at 1 o’clock.
Wes Holly begins his 26th season as Milligan’s softball coach Saturday when the Buffs play a double-header at Lincoln Memorial.
With a career record of 769-440, Holly is a seven-time conference coach of the year. The Milligan program has finished in the top three in the league in 21 of the last 24 years, with eight championships and 15 district/regional appearances.
The Buffs’ home opener is Feb. 14 against Brevard.
Milligan walked away with three NAIA national qualifiers in the mile at a meet in Winston-Salem, N.C., last Saturday.
Lauren Grindstaff finished 12th, the top non-Division I runner in the women’s field, with a time of 5:11.77 at the JDL Fast Track facility. It was a new personal best for the senior from Kingsport.
On the men’s side, Taylor Tafelsky and Christian Brewer also ran personal bests while finishing 11th and 12th, respectively. Tafelsky clocked 4:20.45 and Brewer 4:21.09.
Fitzroy Harris was fifth in the 200 with a time of 22.45.
After a couple of scheduling delays, the new men’s volleyball program finally played its inaugural match last Saturday night.
The Buffs fell to Emmanuel College of Georgia 25-8, 25-14 in a tournament at King College. Hobie Vannoy of Morristown led the team with 15 assists, while Tony Miner, another freshman, had nine kills.
“I was very pleased with our performance and the progress we have made,” said coach Doneva Bays. “We have a great group of guys that are working extremely hard and exceeding expectations for a first-year program.”
The Buffs will host Bryan on Feb. 22.