Proving victorious for the third time in as many days, the eighth-seeded Lady Buffs upended Allen University 78-67 in Friday’s Appalachian Athletic Conference semifinals at the MeadowView Center.
Should Milligan (15-18) get past third-seeded Union (25-6), which victimized Reinhardt 81-75 in the other semifinal matchup, coach Rich Aubrey’s team will be an unlikely qualifier for the NAIA’s Division II national tournament. Saturday’s championship tilt tips off at 3 p.m.
Milligan was a step away from also making the men’s final, but Montreat blitzed the third-seeded Buffs 100-68 by Montreat on Friday.
Coming off a quarterfinal shocker of 13th-ranked and regular-season champion Bryan, the Lady Buffs weren’t ready to come down to earth. Allen (22-8), the No. 4 seed, handled Milligan both times during the regular season, but the Lady Yellow Jackets were vexed the third time around.
Advancing to the AAC final for the first time since 2015, Milligan trailed only once and started the game on a 15-5 run that included 3-pointers from Lily Griffith and Malarie Tallent.
While perimeter shooting served as a complementary component in the win, Allen had few answers for the Lady Buffs’ inside game. Post players Halie Padgett poured in a career-high 26 points, Kaely Gose coupled 18 points with 16 rebounds and Milligan produced 51 points from the paint. Furthermore, Milligan scored 16 on second-chance opportunities.
Padgett, who fouled out, shot 9 of 14 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. As for Gose, she made 8 of her 12 field-goal attempts and sank her lone foul shot.
Reserve Cali Weddle gave the Buffs key minutes underneath with four points, eight boards and three assists. Tallent and Emily Kiser supplied nine and seven points, respectively, off the bench, and Griffith finished with eight points.
Milligan led by as many as 13 in the first quarter before an 11-4 run by Allen over the last four minutes of the half helped the Yellow Jackets make it a two-point game at intermission.
After Allen tied the game at 35 to open the third quarter, the Buffs answered with the next six points as part of a 15-2 run that put the game away.
Hailyah Sumter and substitute forward Chmaiya Miller amassed 19 points in topping the Jackets. Kadejuha Kennedy added 18.
Montreat 100, Milligan 68
Not nearly enough shots were dropping for the Buffs, who went 22 of 74 (29.7%) from the floor. Included was a 4-of-31 effort on 3-point attempts.
The Cavaliers (24-7), who split two regular-season contests with Milligan (19-12), shot 44.6 percent (37 of 83) in this semifinal matchup. The No. 2 seed did its best work behind the arc, going 14 of 29 for a 48.3-percent clip.
Austin Butler sank nine of those Montreat threes, needing just 13 tries. He was 11 of 17 overall in a 34-point outburst.
Victor Tshiona had 14 points to go with 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who got 10 points and 14 boards out of JaJa Davis. Shaquille Evans also scored 10.
Accounting for three 3-pointers, Bo Pless paced the Buffs with 12 points. Reserve Tyler Nichols and Jacob Cawood each contributed 11 points while Desean Green collected eight points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Mike Featherston had seven boards, but Milligan was out-rebounded 63-46.