Fast-starting Lady Buffs upend King

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BRISTOL--King College played toe-to-toe with the Milligan Lady Buffs for 35 minutes of Tuesday night's Appalachian Athletic Conference contest.
   It was a five-minute stretch in the first half that won the game for Milligan.
   Propelled by hot-shooting Kristin Kerkvliet, the Lady Buffs raced out to a 19-4 advantage, then cruised to a 71-60 victory over the Lady Tornado at the King College Student Center.
   King and Milligan combined for two buckets in the first five minutes, then Milligan went on a five-minute stretch where it couldn't miss.
   Led by three Kerkvliet three-pointers, the Lady Buffs were ahead 19-4 with nine minutes left to go in the first half.
   "We've had several cases this year where several people are focusing on Kari (Stout) and other facets of our offense, and Kristen has stepped up," Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey said. "She's a pretty confident offensive player, and she showed it again tonight. And the thing that I like about the way she plays is that she lets it come to her. The game was flowing to her in the first half and she took advantage, and then in the second half they weren't going to let her score as easily and I think she played very smart."
   Ashley Stocton, one of four former Carter County high school standouts on King's roster, admitted that stopping Stout was King's gameplan.
   Stout finished the night with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but it was Kerkvliet's outburst that ended up being the dagger for King.
   "We wanted to guard Stout," said Stocton, a member of Cloudland's 2000-2001 district championship team. "We knew they all could shoot, so we were trying to make them throw the ball inside. We would rather them score a two-pointer than a three-pointer outside. That's what we were concentrating on."
   Milligan held King to 27 percent shooting from the field in the first half, en route to earning a commanding 38-20 halftime lead.
   Even though King's percentage improved to 47 percent in the second half, Aubrey was still pleased with his team's defense.
   "I was really pleased with our defense in the first half," Aubrey said. "And I think the biggest difference in the second half is that we didn't rebound as well, and so they got some second shots which they didn't get in the first half. That gave them a little life offensively. I may change my mind after watching the tape, but I don't feel like we had a huge letdown."
   King made a valiant effort in the second half, as the Lady Tornado cut the Milligan lead down to 64-56 with 1:54 to go in the contest.
   Milligan made its free-throws down the stretch, and avoided a extremely serious Lady Tornado threat.
   One reason for the King rally was the play of Stocton, who finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
   Both coaches had nothing but praise for the sophomore following the game.
   "She's a tough matchup for us," Aubrey said. "She's a very difficult matchup for us. She's a very good player, and a very complete player. She does a very good job."
   Said King College head coach Brad Horstmann: "Ashley was very aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Her shot wasn't falling early, but I thought she made some key shots in the second half. Ashley is always going to rebound and guard people. We really need her to play well for us to play well, and we thought she did that in the second half. We hope she's going to finish out her sophomore year strong."
   Former Hampton standout Amber Farmer had 10 rebounds to top the Lady Tornado in that category.
   Two other former Carter County standouts are on King's team, with one being injured right now. Unaka's Bobbie Blevins broke her ankle recently, and is currently out of action.
   Former Elizabethton Lady Cyclone Beth Holtsclaw is also on the team.
   With King now 13-17 overall and 7-13 in AAC play, Stocton says this bunch is hoping its bad luck will change in the upcoming conference tournament.
   "We're a really close team, and we've had to go through a lot with a lot of people's families having a lot of problems and injures," she said. "Our play has been up and down, but I feel like everybody is going to step it up at the right time, and we're going to get it done. That's what we've been working for, is finishing out the season well."
   As for the Lady Buffs, they have won 10 out of their last 12. It looks like Milligan will be a tough team to beat in AAC Tourney.
   "I think we're definitely headed in the right direction," Aubrey said. "There are some pieces that we would like to see come together, but I definitely feel like we're headed in the right direction.