Milligan comeback falls short

By Tim Chambers
STAR CORRESPONDENT
tchambers@starhq.com

   With everything under the sun going wrong during the first half, the Milligan College Buffaloes found themselves down by 21 at the break. Most teams would have packed it up and called it a night, but not Coach Tony Wallingford and his troops.
   Behind a gutsy effort on senior night the Buffaloes scrapped their way back within five during the second half before falling to the Brevard Tornadoes 69-61 Saturday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
   "We had that deer looking into headlights look the first half," stated Buffalo head coach Wallingford. "It being senior night we had some distractions, but we got to keep ourselves focused on what is at hand."
   Brevard came out hot in the openings minutes with Rashad Mosley and Steve Heggins knocking down big buckets to put the Tornadoes up by five. A nice tip-in from Craig Emmert followed by a nice drive from Michael Morrell cut the lead to one.
   Brevard up the margin at 9-4, but Jon Harris rang up a deuce off a nice pass from Scott Ferguson to cut the margin to three. Brevard went on a 12-4 run to push the advantage to 13, but Milligan answered with buckets from Harris and JaKeith Hairston to cut the margin back at seven 24-17.
   The Buffaloes would go cold for the remainder of the half while Brevard was hitting a blistering 75 percent from three-point land to up the halftime lead at 42-21.
   Milligan fought back in the second half after Brevard went up by 23. Led by the three-point shooting of Eric Coggins and some nifty play from Ferguson, the Buffs sliced the lead to 13 at 53-40.
   The Buffs kept charging behind Ferguson and Emmert to cut the lead to 56-44 at the 10:56 mark. An acrobatic 360 move from Harris followed by a huge three from Morrell saw Milligan within single digits at 59-50.
   The crowd noise got deafening after a three-point bomb by Jordan Simmons cut the margin to six at 59-53. Brevard upped the lead to nine, but Milligan kept fighting behind a 28-footer from Coggins to slice the Brevard lead to 65-60.
   Milligan had two opportunities to cut into the five-point advantage, but a misfired three followed by a turnover gave Brevard new life. A monster dunk from Anthony Hatcher sealed the deal for the Tornadoes as Milligan was unable to get any closer.
   Emmert led the Buffaloes with 16 before fouling out near the 10-minute mark in the second half. Harris and Ferguson tallied 11 and 10 points respectively.
   After a scoreless first half, Coggins added nine in the second half to help the Buffalo attack. Former Elizabethton Cyclone standout Michael Morrell finished his last regular-season game with six points.
   "It's been hard sometimes," stated Morrell. "It's totally different at this level. I managed to stay four years and will graduate, so I am most proud of that accomplishment."
   "We have to regroup come Monday morning and get ready for our first tournament game," added Wallingford. "From here it's a new season."
   Lady Tornadoes 86
   Lady Buffs 82
   "Close but no cigar," was the case for the Lady Buffaloes Saturday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse against Brevard. The Buffaloes put on a great offensive showing but fell short to the quick and athletic Lady Tornadoes.
   "It was a good game for us offensively," stated Buffalo head coach Rich Aubrey. "We didn't get the defensive stops needed at the end to win the game. I thought both teams played well."
   Brevard jumped out to a six-point lead early in the contest, but Milligan answered with Kari Stout and Nicky Jessen getting key hoops to cut the lead to two at 12-7. The Carter County connection of Ginny White and Lacy York tied the score at 12 with a downtown three and a nice spinmove.
   Brevard went up 20-14, but the Buffs answered behind the stellar play of Kacie Letterman and Ann Marie Gardner. A bucket from Letterman followed by two more from Gardner cut the lead to 22-19 at the 10:25 mark.
   After a Kris Richardson three, Milligan answered behind a three-point play from Leah Seevers and two free throws from Letterman to tie the score at 25. Milligan gained a six-point lead thanks to consecutive treys from Stout, but Brevard answered with a 5-0 run to slice the Buffs margin at one.
   Milligan's offense continued to click behind baskets from Gardner, White and Stout, but Brevard refused to quit. After Amanda Greene's jumper gave Milligan a 41-40 advantage, a three at the buzzer from Richardson saw Brevard surge ahead 43-41 at the half.
   Brevard came out smoking in the second half behind Ayana McWilliams, who finished the game with 25 points, but the orange and black kept clawing their way back behind the stellar play of Gardner, whose 11 second-half points kept the Buffs in the game.
   Letterman's three-point play at the 13:00 mark gave Milligan a 55-52 cushion but the lead was short-lived. A three from McWilliams followed by a hoop from Codi Fink gave the Lady Tornadoes a two-point cushion.
   Milligan continued its hard effort with York and Gardner doing the damage, but the strong-winded Tornadoes shot a torrid 53 percentage from the field in the second half to kill Milligan's chances.
   Trailing 83-75 with 2:22 remaining, Milligan mounted one last charge behind two buckets from Joy Clark and a three from Gardner to cut the lead at five. The Buffs had a chance after Clark knocked down two free throws, carving the lead to three, but a desperation three-point attempt from Seevers rolled off with :03 remaining, and Brevard escaped with the win.
   Stout and Gardner topped Milligan with 17, followed by Clark, who added 13. Greene, a former Hampton Bulldog player, closed out her final regular-season game for the Buffaloes on senior night.
   "It's been four great years here at Milligan," said Greene, who plans to attend graduate school. "This is a great school with a great coach if any players are looking to continue their education and playing days after high school."