MILLIGAN COLLEGE ? Opportunities sometimes vanish shortly after presenting themselves.
Milligan's women experienced “now you see me, now you don't” as their shot at a win disappeared.
The Lady Buffaloes were on the bitter end of a 64-63 decision against Tennessee Wesleyan in an important Appalachian Athletic Conference basketball game on a snowy Saturday at Steve Lady Fieldhouse.
Wesleyan (11-2, 14-3) stayed in first place in the conference while Milligan (9-4, 13-8) failed in its attempt to earn a tie.
In the men's game, Milligan jumped on Tennessee Wesleyan in the first half and never really let off the gas in a 95-83 win. Five players reached double figures, led by 19 from Cartree Pettis.
Teammate Mickey Woods had a huge all-around game with 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Milligan, which won its fifth straight game and improved to 13-7 overall, improved to 7-5 in league play.
While the men finished the deal, the Lady Buffaloes were also in prime position for a win as they led by six points with 1:15 left in the game. But they surrendered what amounted to a five-point play and then came up lacking in the endgame.
Armeka Booker, who tormented the Lady Buffs all night, got her ninth offensive rebound and battled through a foul for a bucket, making it 63-59. She missed the free throw, but the Lady Bulldogs got possession.
Sixteen seconds later Cody Houck played net music for a three spot, cutting Milligan's lead to one point.
On the next possession, Wesleyan fouled with 40 seconds remaining. Milligan had a fresh 30 on the shot clock, but Kayla Kelly took a quick shot and missed.
“I should have called a timeout,” said Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey. “It was my fault.”
Wesleyan got the rebound and eventually called timeout with 12 seconds left. Shira Burley them drove to the bucket and made the layup to put her team ahead with 7.1 seconds remaining.
Milligan called timeout, and Kelly brought the ball up the court. She pulled up for a trey attempt, but hit the front iron and time expired as the long rebound bounced away.
“You've got to get a shot up to the basket, but I thought we had time to get one or two dribbles further,” said Aubrey.
Hayley Wyrick led the Lady Buffaloes with 24 points. She was 10 of 13 from the field. Kelly finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while also delivering three assists.
Allison Jones added 12 points and five assists, but was 5 of 18 from the field.
For Wesleyan, Houck totaled 15 points but was just 3 of 13 from trey country.
Buley added eight points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
One of the main reasons Wesleyan won the game was interior defense, contesting shots.
“They are a very good defensive team,” said Aubrey. “They play to their strengths. Buley makes them a better defensive team, and their style of defense is really good ? contain and contest.”
Aubrey said his team needs to grow despite the loss.
“We've had a week of adversity,” he said. “We need to take the mental approach that we will use adversity to make ourselves stronger, and not give into it.”
Milligan College 95
Tennessee Wesleyan 83
After running the Bulldogs ragged and earning a 50-37 halftime lead, Milligan found an even higher gear early in the second half.
The Buffaloes outscored Wesleyan 26-15 in the first seven minutes to build a 76-52 advantage.
Milligan used defensive pressure on Wesleyan's guards to make the difference.
“I think our guards are as good as any in the league,” said Buffaloes' head coach Bill Robinson. “They're quick, and they get in passing lanes.”
Wesleyan, guided by former Science Hill coach Mike Poe, eventually chipped and battled its way to within nine points at 89-80 in the finals minutes, but the Buffs held them off.
One of the game's key plays was a trey ball from Kurt Brooks with 4:44 left in the contest. It stopped a 17-5 run by the Bulldogs and seemed to restore order for Milligan.
Brooks then added another bucket to put Milligan up 87-72.
“A five-point run doesn't sound like a lot, but it stopped their momentum,” said Robinson.
Pettis finished with seven assists while Morgan McLeod totaled 15 points and seven rebounds. Torian Sitton had 14 points and seven rebounds. Brooks finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Wesleyan (8-4, 12-9) got 21 points from Andrew Scofield. Shannon Smith added 19 points and seven assists while Devante' Jenkins had 13 points and nine rebounds.
Dante Turnipseed came off the bench to plant 16 points. Tyler Burse added eight points and 11 rebounds.