MILLIGAN COLLEGE — Johneshia Good and Jaimee Hill have played organized basketball together for a decade. Still, the cousins would be hard pressed to top the moment they shared Wednesday night.
The Milligan College duo combined for 30 points to lead the Lady Buffs to a 75-63 win over Union College on Senior Night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
Afterwards, they shared the floor with other family and friends much to the delight of a highly vocal crowd.
“We’ve been on the same team since middle school and I knew this moment was going to come,” said Good, who ended with a game-high 17 points. “But, it came so fast. It means the world to me to look over my shoulder and have her right there with me.”
The two starred at Science Hill before their college days, and former high school coaches Darrell Barnwell, Scotty Whaley and T.R. Dunn came to support them on their special night.
While their last home game is actually next Wednesday, Good explained that Senior Night was one filled with emotion and appreciation.
It was a sentiment shared by Hill.
“I don’t think I could have made it with anybody else,” Hill said. “There is nobody else I could have imagined being there, always supporting me from seventh grade through college. It’s a good feeling to be able to do this. Every game has been special playing with her, but we wanted to go out with a bang, go out with a win.”
They did just that, although they weren’t alone in the Lady Buffs’ victory which put them at 20-8 on the season and 13-2 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
Kayla Kelly had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Traci Hardmian came through with 14 points and fellow senior Dorian Freeman added 13 points.
Tied 32-32 at the half, Milligan broke the game open with a 12-2 run early in the second half. From there, the closest Union could get was nine points.
“We hit a point in the first half where we kind of played to get to the second half,” Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey said. “That wasn’t my mentality when we were up by seven. Once they reeled us back in, we went with a lot extra subs to have extra energy in the second half. We played a really good second half.”
Lindsey Waters scored 15 points to pace the Lady Bulldogs (16-9, 9-6), who also received 13 points from Haley Perkins and 10 points from Amber Taylor.
Milligan’s win set up a showdown at Tennessee Wesleyan on Saturday with the winner likely to emerge as AAC regular-season champions.
Still, the focus for Milligan was its trio of seniors about whom their head coach had high praise for.
“This is going to be a hard bunch to replace, on and off the court,” Aubrey said. “Their enthusiasm for the game, I haven’t had a class with this much passion for the game as they have. That’s a very valuable commodity.”
Union (men) 74
The Bulldogs (12-13, 6-8) rallied from a 10-point deficit early in the second half, while the Buffaloes (17-10, 9-5) struggled at the free-throw line, hitting just 17-of-30 for the game.
“We’ve talked about it all year that sooner or later free throws were going to come back and bite us,” Milligan head coach Bill Robinson said. “It has a couple of times this year. Obviously, we shoot 70 percent and we win tonight. It’s frustrating. We spend a lot of time on them, shoot them every day, but we struggle.”
Tyler DeVault, who was honored before the game with fellow senior Rob Larsen, scored Milligan’s first five points to hit the career 1,000-point mark early on. Struggling the rest of the game on the offensive end, he had just two more points.
Torian Sitton led the Buffs with 16 points, followed by Cartree Pettis with 14 and Cory Hendren with 13.
Tarik Smith led five Union players who hit double figures with 15 points.
Down 22-11 in the first half, the Buffs scored 14 straight points and outscored the Bulldogs 24-2 over the next several minutes to lead 34-24 early in the second half.
Union clawed back to a 48-48 tie before finally gaining the upper hand. Milligan took one final lead after a 3-pointer by Cory Hendren at the 1:07 mark and a lay-up by Pettis before the Bulldogs scored the last five points at the free-throw line.
Hendren had a chance ot tie later on, but his 3-pointer missed with three seconds left.
The Buffs felt it was a missed opportunity, especially with the second-half lead.
“We haven’t been able to have that killer instinct and put somebody away,” Robinson said. “We’ve let people hang around. Anybody in our league, if you let them hang around, they have a chance to win.”