Hale shoots Buffs out of tournament

By Matt Hill

   BRISTOL, Va. -- There weren't any severe weather warnings in the area Thursday afternoon, but the Milligan College men's basketball team still got caught in a "Hale" storm.
   Dimingo Hale hit nine 3-pointers to lead the Bluefield Rams to an 80-59 victory over the Buffaloes in the quarterfinals of the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament at Virginia High School.
   Hale finished the night with 34 points, and hit 12-of-17 from the field.
   "He stepped up and made a lot of big shots," Milligan head coach Tony Wallingford said. "He's a great player. We gave him some open looks, and we missed some coverage and things. But to his credit he knocked them down. He beat us today."
   Hale felt like the opportunity was there to step up.
   "Dale Evans took a lot of pressure off of me, because he was guarding their best player, Lance Ashby," Hale said. "Therefore that took a lot of pressure off of me, and I wasn't as tired. I felt confident in my shot today."
   Things started going sour for Milligan late in the first half. The Buffaloes were ahead 29-27 with 3:29 to go before the break, but that was the last lead Milligan would see.
   Propelled by two big treys from Hale, the Rams outscored the 'Buffs 10-0 in the final 3:29 of the half to go into the locker room up 37-29.
   Wallingford thought the last few minutes of the first half really set the tone for the second stanza.
   "They took the wind out of our sail," Wallingford said. "We hung our head a little bit at halftime, and really never recovered."
   The second half was all Bluefield. The Rams outscored Milligan 25-13 in the first 12 minutes, and extended their lead to 62-42 when Hale hit a three-pointer with 8:02 left to play.
   The Rams never looked back after that, as they eventually extended their lead to 26 points.
   "We panicked a little bit in the second half," Wallingford said. "I thought we lost our composure, and just started to rush things offensively."
   A.J. Hamler finished his career at Milligan Thursday, but not before scoring 21 points against Bluefield. Ashby added 16 for the 'Buffs.
   It was an uncharacteristic year for Milligan, as it finished in 10th place during the regular season after winning the conference last year.
   The Buffs will lose Hamler, Derek Dyer, Scott Hall, Ashby and James Howard to graduation, but Wallingford is hoping his team will back on its lofty perch next season.
   "That's our goal," Wallingford said. "We need an infusion of new people because we're losing five seniors, and four of them were starting most the time. We're looking for help on the outside to combine with the remaining players, and see if we can't get some chemistry and scratch and claw back into this title."