Lady Bobcats drop Milligan

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   Down by 14 early in the second half, the Lees-McRae Lady Bobcats never gave up.
   Rallying halfway through the 20-minute period behind Jameka Hemming and Julie Hardison, the green and white walked out of Steve Lacy Fieldhouse as winners with their 78-71 comeback victory over the Milligan College Lady Buffaloes early Saturday afternoon.
   "I'm trying to figure out if we hit a point where we started playing not to lose instead of playing to win," said Milligan Coach Rich Aubrey. "If we did, then obviously we hit it way too early because there was a lot of basketball left to be played."
   "Milligan's a fantastic team," said Lady Bobcat coach Gene Joiner. "They are well coached and they are the most fundamental team we've played this season."
   "One thing we knew was that they couldn't keep shooting as hot as they were in the second half. We went into the locker room and stepped up our intensity as a team, and a coaching staff to just get out and put a hand on them each time."
   Milligan came out strong behind Amanda Greene and Vera Conkin to open the contest. Ginny White and Kari Stout made some big plays during the middle of the first half to help their squad take an overwhelming 40-26 lead over Lees-McRae.
   Teammates Amanda Hammons and Joy Clark continued that effort during the beginning of the second, while Kristin Kerkvliet provided a good range of opportunities for Milligan.
   However, they began to fall slowly to Lois Hendrix's outside pressure and fell under the goal where Hemming dominated en route to her game-leading 26 points.
   "Hemming's a freshman, she's young and has a lot to learn," said Joiner. "But we've told her that as the biggest woman on the court, she's got to learn to play her size and no one can guard her.
   "We just gave her that confidence, and tried to push her hard at halftime. We told her that no one could guard her if she got the ball and it worked out real well. She grabbed it and shot it a lot in the second half."
   Said Aubrey: "I just felt like some of the little things we did in the first half. We weren't as diligent about doing them in the second half and on both ends of the floor."
   Milligan watched their lead of as much as 16 dwindle slowly to solid defense from Laura Parker and former Cloudland standout Taukia Hughes, who came up with a game-leading three steals.
   "Defensively we weren't quite as aggressive pressuring the ball and denying wing passes," Aubrey said. "Offensively we didn't finish the shots that we needed to make and obviously that cost us the game."
   It was a good homecoming of sorts for Hughes, who played her first game in Carter County despite playing over the hill in Banner Elk, North Carolina. The freshman has seen a lot of minutes for the Lady Bobcats this season.
   "Taukia's been a true surprise to the program," Joiner said. "She comes from a great family and a great high school program. She's mother goose, she takes care of our program.
   "She does the little things well. And when you have a player like Taukia who does the little things well, it makes everybody else better. We're happy to have her in our program."
   It was a good reunion for Hughes, who met up with former Hampton and Happy Valley opponents in the contest.
   "Our coach threatened our lives if we didn't win this game," Hughes joked. "We played really horrible the first half. But it feels good to finally beat them."
   "It's been really fun playing up there," she said. "I really do enjoy it and I like all of my teammates. It's hard and different from high school."
   Hardison and Lady contributed 15 points apiece for Lees-McRae, while Amanda Hammons led Milligan with her 16. Joy Clark, Ginny White and Kari Stout all had double digits for the Lady Buffaloes in the scoring department.
   Milligan's next home stand is against Tennessee Wesleyan on the 14th at 5:30.