Milligan men, women prevail in home finale

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Milligan Buffaloes celebrated in their last appearance of the season at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse with an 84-68 win over Brevard.
   Milligan ends its year at 14-17 in regular season play and 10-12 in the conference, but the season doesn't really start until next week when the Buffs attempt to win the Appalachian Athletic Conference, says Milligan coach Tony Wallingford.
   "Tonight we did a better job of handling the ball and not making turnovers, and we did hold our own better on the boards," Wallingford said. "That was the two things we were looking to accomplish."
   The Buffaloes came out in the first half to grab a 19-6 lead in the first seven and a half minutes.
   A couple of baskets inside from Craig Emmert and a long three-point goal by Michael Morrell put Milligan out in front with a fast start.
   Brevard stormed back to steal the lead through the next 10 minutes of play, as Milligan hit on just two field goals during the stretch.
   "We had a lull on offense in the first half, but then were able to come back at the end, and we had one in the second half also, but not nearly as long," said Wallingford.
   A three-point goal from Tyjuan Campbell gave the Tornados their first lead with 5:32 left in the half, and they were able to build as much as a four-point advantage with under two minutes to go.
   The Buffaloes went on a 6-0 run to end the first half and regain the lead that they had once seen slip away.
   A steal by Marc Curry with 49 seconds left tied the game at 29-29, and the Buffaloes defense held to gain Milligan one last shot before intermission.
   An attempt on a three-point shot from the quarter just did bounce out for JaKeith Hairston, but Curry was there to make the putback at the buzzer, giving Milligan a two-point lead.
   "JaKeith shot it from the corner, and I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I think that helped change the momentum of the game," said Curry.
   It was back and forth for the first five minutes of the second half, and two three-point goals from Brevard's Jared Ramsey and Campbell put the Tornado up by three with 14:44 left.
   Milligan came back to go on a 13-2 run, after a three from Jordan Simmons started to change the momentum of the game.
   The Buffaloes top scorer this season cut loose after being held to just four points in the first half, as Jonathan Harris poured in 15 points in the second half.
   Milligan built a 67-52 lead by the five and a half minute mark, after Harris received the fast break pass from Morrell for the score.
   The Buffaloes were 12-of-16 from the line in the final minutes, enabling them a victory heading into the tournament.
   Harris led Milligan in scoring with 19 points, followed by Curry, who added 17. Emmert pulled down 11 rebounds to go with 12 points and three blocked shots.
   "Our coach had us mentally aware of what was going to happen, so we were really prepared for what we were going to do," said Curry.
   Lady Tornados 63
   Lady Buffs 68 (OT)
   It was senior night for several of the Lady Buffaloes as they finished out their regular-season careers on a winning note with a 68-63 victory over Brevard.
   The Lady Buffaloes added to their seven-game win streak, and finished the season at 18-12 overall and 15-7 in the conference.
   "It was a great win for us, and all of our seniors played well, along with the rest of the team even though we didn't shoot that well," said Lady Buffaloes coach Rich Aubrey.
   Senior Amanda Hammons and Kari Stout led the Buffaloes in the first half with seven points apiece to grab a 35-31 Milligan lead at intermission.
   The Tornados went on a 6-0 run to wrestle the lead away starting the second half, but the Buffaloes responded to stay on top nearly the rest of the way.
   "I know our kids wanted to win this one for our seniors, and I think we have more confidence than we had a month ago, and that made a difference tonight," said Aubrey.
   Milligan had an eight-point advantage with 8:10 left in regulation, after Stout nailed a three and Lacy York sank two free throws.
   The Buffs struggled down the stretch and were outscored 10-2 in the final five minutes, as their only offense came from senior Vera Conkin, who converted two foul shots.
   A three-point goal by Jana Reynolds with 1:40 left in regulation tied the contest at 59-59.
   With time running out Stout attempted a three-point shot with three seconds left, but it bounced off the rim to send the game into overtime.
   Joy Clark made a nice move inside for Milligan to give the Buffaloes a one-point advantage, while York added one of two free throws.
   A couple of strong defensive rebounds from senior Kristin Kerkvliet in the closing minutes limited the Tornados to just one shot opportunity.
   "I knew in overtime I had to do my best in going after the rebound, and that's what I was trying to get done," said Kerkvliet.
   The shot-clock became a factor in the final seconds as Milligan called a timeout to set its offense.
   On the ensuing pass from out of bounds, Kerkvliet hit Stout with a pass in the corner for a three-point goal to seal the win.
   "That was a play we drew up and she has been there for us before, and I'm happy for the team that she made it," said Kerkvliet.
   Four seniors were honored after the game, as Conkin finished her career with over 1,000 points, while Hammons led the Buffaloes in rebounding this season.
   Kerkvliet, who finished the contest with six points, has had a solid career in her four years at Milligan, and senior Patty Robb received eight minutes in her final game as a Buff.
   "This is the grand finale and the greatest, and hopefully we'll play well next week and make it to the nationals," said Kerkvliet.