Tornado squeaks by Buffs

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   BRISTOL--The King College Tornado wrestled the lead back and forth with the Milligan Buffaloes at King College Tuesday night, barely breezing by with a 65-64 victory.
   The women's game was similar, with Milligan taking the 31-29 lead at the halftime buzzer, but the Lady Tornado huffed and puffed and blew Milligan away with a 63-52 win after a five-minute stretch of 15 unanswered points near the end of the game.
   The entire first half of the men's game passed with neither team reaching further than a four point lead. Milligan opened with a three-pointer by Scott Ferguson, and a Michael Morrell fake that Jonathon Harris put in.
   Justin Seaver and Dusan Vucen scored King's first two baskets. There were only five instances in which the same team scored two or more consecutive times during the first half.
   "I expected what we got," said King coach Scott Polsgrove of the Buffs. "They played really hard. They're very tough defensively in how physical they are. Tony Wallingford has been there a long time and he's a great coach."
   King made the first scoring run, with an inside shot from Seaver, and free throws from Eric Ely and Brent Bradshaw. Milligan answered immediately with six unanswered points -- four from Craig Emmert and a basket from the top of the key by Morrell.
   The Buffaloes were up by three at the half, and made the first significant gap in the score with a trey from JaKeith Hairston and two buckets from Harris to take an eight-point lead. King made a 9-1 run to tie the game with 7:38 left.
   "The game was won probably in a five-minute stretch when we had Manahan and Linkous, Chapman and Seaver," said Polsgrove. "They got us the stops, they got us the scores inside, they played a little closer to what we're capable of playing. That five or six minute stretch was probably the difference in the ballgame."
   The Buffaloes pulled ahead by three again, but with 4:15 left in the game, King took the lead for the final time. Milligan clung a couple points behind them, but a combination of several missed Buffalo free throws, and two foul shots that Bradshaw made for King with 11 seconds left put a four-point gap in the score.
   A free throw by Ferguson and a basket by Harris made up three of those points, but the clock didn't allow time for the two needed for the win.
   "The game is made up of between 70 and 80 plays sometimes," said Milligan coach Tony Wallingford. "They all add up, but I think the plays at the end are sometimes magnified and are make-or-break plays. Tonight, (King) made more of those. I'm not saying our guys didn't make those plays, because we did. We made some great plays, but they made more of them."
   Milligan had three players score in the double digits, with Harris putting in a game-high 16, while Emmert and Morrell contributed 13 and 12. Vucen scored 14 for King, Ely followed with 13, and Seaver scored 10 points.
   "We are very, very fortunate to be able to get this win," said Polsgrove. "I told the guys in the locker room, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. That was certainly the case tonight."
   A group of Liberty University ministry majors calling themselves S.O.A.R. brought oohs and ahhs from the crowd during the men's halftime in a Harlem Globetrotter style, performing tricks as they slam-dunked basketballs.
   They launched themselves from trampolines placed in front of the goal to do the dunks, doing flips, twists, double jumps, and even soaring over their teammates before slamming the ball through the hoop.
   "The team's been around since 1992. We're all just college students, and we travel around the United States, wherever God sends us," said the group leader, Mike Britton.
   The team's acronym name stands for Soul'd Out And Ready. "We're soul'd out, and giving our lives to Jesus Christ, and we're always ready to go out there and give an answer to what lies within us. It also stands for soar because we soar through the air and dunk the ball," Britton explained.
   In the women's game, Milligan held onto the lead for most of the second half after taking it seconds before halftime.
   Senior King guard Jenn Testa scored one from behind the three-point line to snatch the 49-48 lead from the Lady Buffs with 7:16 left in the game. Milligan's offense seemed to fizzle after that, as they only put in four more points during the final minutes.
   "Ultimately, we're having trouble scoring consistently," said Lady Buffs coach Rich Aubrey. "It's hard to stay in a game like that. Obviously, we needed to find some answers offensively and we couldn't them."
   Melissa Ervin controlled offense for King during the first half, while Rebekah Wilson stepped in and took over on the drive during the second half. "Rebekah was making shots -- when she's making a left-hand hook, you're not going to stop her," said King coach Brad Horstman.
   Ervin scored a game-high 19 points, and Wilson put in 14 for King.
   Nicky Jessen and Ann Marie Gardner led the Lady Buffalo offense, scoring nine points each. Joy Clark and Kacie Letterman followed a step behind with eight and seven points.
   Milligan's edge in the game was the 53 rebounds they collected, compared to King's 39.
   "That's what allowed Milligan to stay around, was the fact that they had 22 offensive rebounds tonight, and 15 of them were in the first half," said Horstman. "Milligan is a well-coached basketball team, and the Stout girl is a very good player. You know Rich is going to have them prepared, and they came in tonight and they really, the first half, controlled the basketball game."
   "They're a good team. They have a lot of weapons," said Aubrey of the Lady Tornado. "They can score the ball under a lot of different conditions. I really thought defensively, we did a pretty decent job. Not great, but not terrible either. I really just think that it was our inability to score that ended up doing us in."