Buffs deliver down stretch

Get job done after trailing most of way


Photo by Rick Harris
Scoring an inside deuce, Milligan's Jonathon Harris goes up strong over Johnah Rockett of Montreat.

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   It took all 40 minutes of action before a winner emerged on Thursday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse, with Milligan pulling out a close AAC final of 86-82 over Montreat.
   After trailing most of the contest, the Buffaloes made a couple of defensive stands down the stretch to go 9-3 in conference play and 10-9 overall.
   "There was a lot of offense this evening, and the defensive effort was there, but we made a few mistakes and got ourselves out of position several times," said Milligan coach Tony Wallingford.
   Milligan opened up with a quick score from Scott Ferguson off a steal, which became the Buffaloes' only lead of the first half at 2-0.
   The Cavaliers were hot from the perimeter in the first 20 minutes, nailing 7 of 13 from beyond the arch.
   A three-point shot from David Robinson with 9:05 left in the half gave Montreat a 30-20 lead, as he led the Cavaliers with 21 points on the evening.
   Milligan rallied back to cut the lead down to four (40-36) after a pass from Jonathon Harris to Bradley Blair underneath resulted in a bucket.
   A lay-up by Todd Davis at the buzzer off the give and go from Ferguson made it 45-42 at the half, as Milligan had trouble in defending the outside shooting.
   "I told the guys we were going to have to give a little more effort on defense and get out there to defend their outside shooting," said Wallingford. "I challenged the guys to go out and get the win, get your respect, and fortunately that's what they did."
   The Buffaloes captured the lead in the first minute of the second half, when Eric Coggins nailed a three-pointer and Harris converted with a strong move down low.
   It didn't take long for Montreat to gain back the advantage, as Robinson made a steal and pass to Tony Orr on the break.
   The lead then changed hands on nine different occasions, with Montreat connecting on four three-point goals in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a 65-60 lead.
   Everytime it seemed that the Cavaliers were on their way to possibly blowing open the game, Milligan would come back to show its strength on offense.
   Eric Coggins drained a three-point goal with 7:52 left in the game, giving the Buffaloes a 70-69 margin.
   After Noble Anthony sank two free throws with just under four minutes left, the Cavaliers went on a dry spell, which lasted nearly three minutes.
   Coggins knocked down his sixth three-point goal of the night with 2:58 to tie the contest at 80-80, and a pass from Michael Morrell to Ferguson gave the Buffaloes a two-point advantage.
   Coggins finished the game by scoring 20 points and hitting 6 of 12 three-pointers.
   There was a couple of big defensive stops that came from Craig Emmert in the final minutes.
   First a block from Emmert on Robinson, led to a score at the other end of the floor.
   "I knew he was going to try to make the shot, so I just left my man and came in and helped out," said Emmert. "It's a good feeling being able to redeem ourselves and convert plays at the end."
   With the game tied, Emmert made a cut inside the paint, as Harris hit him on stride for the final go ahead bucket with a minute left.
   Emmert finished the game with 12 points and two blocks, while Harris led the Buffaloes in scoring with 21 points and six rebounds.
   Another key stop for Milligan came after Emmert drew a charge from Jazz Cathcart with 51 seconds left.
   Montreat had a chance for the tie or go ahead at the end, but a three-point attempt by Robinson from the corner came up well short.
   "Everybody started doubling up trying to help out toward the end, so I peel off my guy and stood in there to take the charge," said Emmert. "Finally we're doing a better job of finishing games this season and coming up by making the plays."