Lady Buffs eliminated on last-second bucket

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   BRISTOL, Va. -- It was a Tekielia sunset for the Milligan College Lady Buffaloes on Thursday.
   A late shot by Tekielia Oden propelled Brevard College to a 59-58 victory over the Lady Buffs in quarterfinal round play of the Appalachian Athletic Conference Tournament at the Bearcat Den.
   The loss knocks the Lady Buffs out of the event, and will finish the season at 18-13 barring a surprise invitation to the national tournament.
   "It was going to be disappointing when it ended no matter how it ended," Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey said. "That's the way it is today. It's not at all a situation where I'm disappointed with our players, I'm disappointed for them."
   After a three-pointer by Kari Stout put Milligan ahead 58-57 with 1:04 to go in regulation, the Lady Buffs came up with a big defensive stop, and it looked like Milligan had things in control.
   But Brevard had a few things up its sleeve.
   A Brevard steal with 20 seconds left gave the No. 5 seed another chance to win the game.
   After a timeout, Brevard went down the court and got the basketball to the sharp-shooting Oden, who nailed the field goal from right around the center of the free-throw line with four seconds left.
   "She stepped up and made a big shot," Aubrey said. "It's hard to lose anytime, but it's really hard to lose when it's the end and when it ends your season."
   On the inbounds play after Oden's basket, Milligan did get the basketball to Stout just past half-court and she put up a desperation three that almost went in.
   While a heartbroken Milligan team was thinking about what might have been, Oden thought her team had a perfect strategy on the game-winning shot.
   "It was more of a do or die opportunity," Oden said. "Coach drew up a perfect play, and we just had to execute it. All my teammates did what they had to do, and we were able to get the last shot."
   Oden's shot capped off a week that saw Brevard and Milligan play two great games. On Saturday, the Lady Buffs beat Brevard in overtime.
   Oden couldn't have asked for a better draw in the tournament.
   "We felt like it was God giving us the opportunity to get revenge, sort of," Oden said. "We just wanted to play them again, and have the opportunity to win against them."
   After a slow start that saw Milligan get behind by as many as 13 points, the Lady Buffs rebounded to cut Brevard's advantage down to 32-27 at the half.
   The second half was the Kari Stout show for the Lady Buffs, as Milligan used her hot hand to make things interesting in the final minutes.
   Stout finished the game with 20 points, and went four-of-six from beyond the arc.
   Stout was the Freshman-of-the-Year in the AAC this season, and she played like it down the stretch for Milligan late in the contest.
   "She's had a very, very good freshman season," Aubrey said. "She had a very, very good game today. All of our players did a good job of putting her in a position where she could have success, and then she stepped up and made a lot of great plays, and had a lot of success as a freshman.
   "I think it's great news all the way around. It's good news she's coming back for three more years, it's good news her teammates did such a good job of putting her in the position. We won games when people limited her scoring, and we won games when she scored a lot. I'm just very pleased with the way it has worked out."
   Amanda Hammons and Ginny White also scored in double figures for the Lady Buffs. Hammons finished with 15, while White had 10.
   Kristin Kerkvliet tallied six rebounds to top Milligan.
   Oden led Brevard with 13 points despite sitting out most of the second half with foul trouble.
   Even with the early exit, it was still a season to smile about for the Lady Buffs. Milligan was picked seventh in league during the preseason, but was playing as good as anybody by season's end.
   Aubrey couldn't be happier with his ladies.
   "I'm really pleased with how this season went, on and off the court," he said. "It's been a fabulous year. Our players have worked hard from day one, they've stayed committed to one another, and they've really hung together through tough times and through good times. I'm extremely pleased.
   "This group has really helped put us on the path upward. I'm just extremely pleased with everything we've accomplished. I wish we were still playing, but I'm very pleased with what we have accomplished as a group."