Milligan College can take a big step in the Appalachian Athletic Conference women’s basketball race on Saturday.
The Lady Buffs host Tennessee Wesleyan, shooting for a regular-season sweep in a rematch of the preseason co-favorites.
Milligan comes in at 9-3 in the conference (13-7 overall) after winning five of its last six games. Wesleyan is 10-2, 13-3 and currently tied for first place with Union.
“We want to be in the thick of it, and every time we win makes the next game more relevant,” Milligan coach Rich Aubrey said Thursday. “Obviously this is a big game coming up.”
The Lady Buffs defeated the Lady Bulldogs 81-66 in Athens back on Nov. 26 behind 29 points and nine rebounds by Chelsea Weddle. The junior from Hampton made 9 of 11 shots, including all seven 3-pointers she attempted.
Callie Cox erupted for 22 points – twice her second-best total of the season – for the Lady Buffs.
“The first time we played, they were missing a starter and we were missing Kayla Kelly,” said Aubrey. “Chelsea really did a great job there and it was great to pick up the win. But both teams have changed and grown over the last two months, so we’ll see where we stand now.”
Milligan needed a pair of free throws by Kelly and a defensive stand in the closing seconds to hold off St. Andrews 67-64 on Wednesday night. The Lady Buffs had led by seven with a little over a minute to go.
Sophomore forward Allison Jones leads the team in scoring at 15.7 ppg. Kelly averages 13.9, while Hayley Wyrick is at 13.8 and Weddle is at 10.5.
Kelly, Weddle and Wyrick are each averaging over five rebounds a game, led by Kelly at 7.4.
“We’re just getting really good performances from a lot of people,” said Aubrey, “and it bounces around. I think we’ve had seven different players score at least 15 points in a game. Anyone is capable of stepping up on a given night.”
The men’s team is also on a roll, having won four straight on the heels of a seven-game losing streak. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride from the start for coach Bill Robinson’s team.
“We started 8-2, then hit the road and struggled,” he said. “We’re finally getting healthy again and getting good play from a lot of different people. We’ve been playing very well defensively, and I think our guards are as good as any in our league.”
The Buffs (12-7) are fifth in the AAC, at 6-5, as they prepare for Saturday’s game against a Tennessee Wesleyan team that is tied for second. The Bulldogs come into Lacy Fieldhouse at 12-8, 8-3.
Union, ranked 25th nationally, still tops the standings at 10-1.
“Our next two games are against the top teams in the conference,” said Robinson, “and they’re going to be very difficult. I think Saturday will be an absolute war.”
Wesleyan won the first matchup 97-90, and Robinson expects a similar shootout.
“We hope it will be,” he said. “We don’t have a big post player to pound it in there, so we want to get out and create pace. Tennessee Wesleyan won 100-98 last night, so I don’t think they’ll be walking it up either.”
The Buffs are led in scoring by junior guard Mickey Woods at 13.0 ppg. Cartree Pettis (12.5), Torian Sitton (11.6) and Morgan McLeod (11.2) also average in double figures.
The track and field teams had some good showings in the Niswonger Invitational last weekend at East Tennessee State.
The Milligan men posted four top-five finishes, highlighted by milers Taylor Tafelsky and Christian Brewer, who took second and third, respectively, with personal bests. Tafelsky clocked a 4:22.25, with Brewer at 4:24.49.
Those two later teamed with Ayden Farmer and Fitzroy Harris to finish third in the medley distance relay.
On the women’s side, Cassie St. John took fifth in the 3,000 in her collegiate debut indoors.
The inaugural season for the men’s volleyball team is having a hard time getting started.
The scheduled opener against Lees-McRae on Tuesday night was postponed by snow in Banner Elk. A match Saturday at Liberty has been cancelled, leaving the Buffs’ debut now for a tournament at King College on Feb. 1.
The team, under the direction of women’s coach Doneva Bays and assistant McKayla Barber, is playing a light club schedule this winter and hoping to build from there.
Despite frigid conditions, Milligan’s baseball team is preparing for a Feb. 1 opener at Bethel University.
Meanwhile, the softball season is scheduled to start Feb. 5 at Lincoln Memorial.