MILLIGAN COLLEGE – For a while, it looked like Scott Blake couldn’t miss.
Blake continued his torrid long-range shooting Saturday, scoring 19 points as Milligan College’s basketball team moved into a first-place tie in the Appalachian Athletic Conference with an 88-82 victory over Reinhardt University at Lacy Fieldhouse.
“It feels awesome, but we can’t let our guard down now,” said Blake, a junior who played at South Greene. “They were getting me open and I was just feeling it. My teammates pretty much get me open. They drive and kick it out.”
Blake made his first three shots from 3-point range and finished 4 of 7 to raise his season percentage to .459.
“All he does is make shots,” Milligan coach Bill Robinson said. “The kid’s fearless and when he gets hot we have to find him. We trust him. He’s a junior, he’s been through some battles and he’s playing really well right now.”
The Milligan women remained undefeated in the AAC with a 54-39 victory over Reinhardt.
Tyler DeVault added 15 hard-earned points for the Milligan men, who improved to 10-6 overall, 3-1 in the AAC. Cartree Pettis had 11 points and six assists, while Corey Hendren had 11 points and went 3 of 4 on 3-pointers.
Reinhardt, which fell to 6-6, 3-1, was led by Quinton Wood’s 16 points.
“We competed as hard as we competed all year,” Robinson said. “Reinhardt’s a very good team. They’re scrappy and they continue to pressure you. And if you don’t compete, sooner or later you back down. And we did not back down. I’m proud of them.”
Milligan went 9 of 18 on 3-point shots after making 8 of 12 in the first half. The Buffs shot 50 percent overall for the game but did miss 17 of their 36 free throws.
How good was the Milligan women’s defense? The Lady Buffaloes were able to post their double-digit victory despite missing almost three-quarter of their shots.
The Lady Buffs shot 26 percent from the field and blew most of a 15-point halftime lead before regaining their composure.
“That’s one nice thing about having experience on the floor,” Milligan coach Rich Aubrey said. “And I think we have a lot of confidence in our defense. That’s what carried us home.”
Jaimee Hill and Kayla Kelly each scored 13 points to lead Milligan, which improved to 11-5 overall and 4-0 in the AAC.
Thanks in part to a 13-0 run, Reinhardt cut Milligan’s 31-16 halftime lead to 38-35 and had a potentially tying 3-pointer in the air. When the tying shot missed and Milligan’s Tracy Hardiman swished a 3-pointer of her own, the Buffs were up 41-35 and weren’t threatened again.
“I felt pretty confident the whole way,” Aubrey said. “We played a little better the first half. We were able to get into transition and press more. We did what we had to do in the second half. I’m very pleased with our mental toughness.”
The victory was sealed when Hill caught a nifty backdoor pass from former Science Hill teammate Johneshia Good and was fouled while making the shot. The three-point play put Milligan up 48-37 with 3:16 left.
“We’ve been playing together since seventh grade so we made eye contact and we just kind of know each other,” Hill said. “I’m blessed to play with a player like her and glad we continued playing together in college.”
Using a full-court press whenever it could, Milligan forced 26 turnovers, 14 of them steals. Allison Jones helped turned the tide with five picks.
The defensive pressure allowed the Buffs to overcome 20 percent shooting in the second half. They made 6 of 30 attempts. Reinhardt wasn’t much better, shooting 29 percent.
Reinhardt (6-10, 1-3) was led by Tara Hay’s 13 points.
“Our primary objective today was to find a way to get a win and we were able to do that,” Aubrey said. “I think we did enough good things and we still did enough that we have to work on some things. That’s what early January is for.”