Milligan women pull off huge upset in AAC tourney

Joe Avento • Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 9:21 PM

KINGSPORT — The Milligan College women’s basketball team did something no other Appalachian Athletic Conference team has been able to do for more than two years — beat Bryan College.

The Lady Buffaloes had five players score in double figures and pulled away during crunch time for a 75-67 ACC tournament quarterfinal victory over Bryan, the 13th-ranked team in NAIA Division II, Thursday at the Marriott MeadowView Convention Center.

Top-seeded Bryan (28-2) had gone 24-0 in the AAC during the regular season, including beating Milligan 94-76 and 88-66. The Lions have run through the last two ACC regular seasons undefeated and won the last three conference tournaments. They hadn’t lost in their last 56 games against AAC teams and had a 15-game winning streak.

Milligan, which came in as the tournament’s eighth seed and on a five-game losing streak, had to win a play-in game just to make the quarterfinals. The Buffs will take a 14-18 record into Friday’s 6 p.m. semifinals against Allen.

“That was pretty good,” said Milligan coach Rich Aubrey, in his 27th season at the school. “In terms of the scale of the upset, that ranks right up there. They’re a very good team. They’re very deep. It took a great effort from a lot of different people today for us to pull off that win.”

Meanwhile, the Milligan men overcame an illness that has swept through the team this week to beat Kentucky Christian 86-70 in their quarterfinal matchup.

Halie Padgett led the Lady Buffs with 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Kaely Gose had 14 points and 13 rebounds. She also went 9 of 10 from the foul line. Emily Kiser and Lily Griffith added 11 points apiece and Hannah Wyrick had 10.

Bryan led by double digits in the first half and was up 40-30 at halftime.

Kiser made a 3-pointer with 8:13 left in the game to enable Milligan to forge a 57-57 tie. There were four more ties before the Buffs began to finally pull away when Padgett scored to break a 64-64 deadlock. The Buffs outscored the Lions 11-3 to close out the surprising win.

“I think we were really focused the whole day,” said Aubrey, who has taken his team to the NAIA Division II national tournament eight times. “We knew we were going to have to shoot some threes, but we could not stop going inside. We made some big threes and got the ball in the paint and got some big and-ones. We stayed true to the game plan and were able to make some shots.”

Bryan, which already has a spot in the NAIA Division II national tournament thanks to the regular-season championship, was led by Destiny Kassner’s 17 points. Kaitlynn Hennessee had 17 and Deandra Luna added 14 on a 6-for-22 shooting day.

In the men’s game, Nathan Hastings scored 21 points, making 9 of 13 shots to lift the Buffs, who haven’t been able to hold a true workout in several days because so many players have been sick.

“Maybe we should just take three days off and not let anybody practice before the tournament every year,” Milligan coach Bill Robinson said. “We literally have done nothing but shoot in practice the last three days.”

Milligan shot 54% from the field and improved to 19-11. The Buffs will take on Montreat in Friday’s semifinals at 4 p.m.

Desean Green had 13 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for Milligan, while Jacob Cawood added 11 points and five assists. Mike Featherston had 10 rebounds.

Owen Crawford led Kentucky Christian (14-17) with 26 points.

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