A blistering start was enough to propel BFA-St. Albans past Milton on February 3, with the Bobwhites overcoming 37 Ryan Brown points and a frantic Yellowjacket comeback effort to clinch at least a share of the Lake Division title with a 77-68 win.
BFA (9-8) flew out of the gate with a 23-point first quarter that left Milton (7-10) playing catch-up the rest of the night. MHS never recovered fully, though it did succeed in cutting what was at one time a 16-point deficit in the third quarter down to as few as six in the final minutes of the fourth.
But even Brown’s monster night couldn’t bring Milton all the way back.
“We gave up a lot of transition buckets early. I think we got down 14 early and after that it was a ball game,” Milton coach Chris Brown said. “We got within five, really one or two stops away from making it very interesting at the end.
“But you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They came out with a lot of fire; I think they had 16 points in the first four or five minutes, and that was the game right there. We battled back hard; they made their free throws down the stretch.”
The Bobwhites countered Brown’s 37 with a balanced effort, fueled by five players scoring double-digit points. Jens Ulrich-Verderber’s 20 led the way and included an 8-of-9 conversion from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
Chris Myers-Tinney dropped in 14 points on the night, and Mark Connor nailed a trio of threes en route to 13 points. Will Harvey added 11, and freshman Logan Tobin’s 10 points included back-to-back threes during a 14-6 Bobwhite run to close the first half.
BFA got off to a scorching start thanks to a strong transition game as the Yellowjackets struggled to control the ball early on. Myers-Tinney’s seven points in the opening frame led the hosts to a 15-6 lead at the midpoint and a 23-14 lead after the first.
In the second quarter, St. Albans scored 12 of its 17 points from beyond the arc to take a 40-26 halftime lead.
Milton began to turn things around in the third, with Brown scoring 10 in that quarter, all via strong cuts toward the basket — his first and last buckets coming off Milton steals. Possession woes plagued BFA in the second half much as they hurt MHS in the first. No one benefited more than Brown, who tallied 23 points in the second half.
“He had a good game tonight,” coach Brown said of his son. “He’s always played well in this gym, he loves coming here and battling. More impressive is how he rebounds. He’s up there battling with everybody for rebounds.”
BFA coach Matt Toof said the Bobwhites expected some success for Brown as their priority was to stop Eric Menard from having as much success as he did when St. Albans won by eight in Milton on January 12. Thirty-seven points, however, was not part of that plan.
“We took Will [Harvey] off of him, Will had him last time in Milton, but we put Will on the Menard kid because he played so well last time,” Toof said. “So we knew we were going to give up a little bit to Brown but not that much. I didn’t think he’d get away with that much.”
Milton’s best balance of the night game in the third quarter, getting four points from Ben Hanson and two from Joseph Beaupre, who each finished the game with six. Chris Ryea scored two of his four total in the third, and Ian Jennings scored his only two points on a pair of free throws in that frame — Milton sank six of its eight free-throw attempts in the quarter and hit 18 of 25 overall.
”We had some guys who were a little sluggish offensively to start, and we had some guys who started contributing later in the game, which got us back into it,” Brown said. “But we’ve just got to get everybody clicking come playoffs.”
Brown assisted on a Hanson bucket and scored twice more off BFA turnovers in a 6-0 Yellowjacket run late in the third. Ryea put back an offensive rebound in response to Tobin’s score as Milton reduced its deficit to 56-46 entering the fourth quarter.
Milton’s pressure on the ball again in the fourth made it difficult for BFA to protect its lead. If not for Verderber hitting eight of nine and his teammates making four of six from the line in the fourth, the outcome likely would have been in the visitor’s favor.
Brown and Logan Bean (seven points) forced a litany of Bobwhite turnovers, and Brown scored seven during an 11-1 Milton run that cut the score to 69-63 with 2:10 to go in the fourth. Down seven 30 seconds later, Milton’s press twice came within inches of steals on a play that instead ended with an Ulrich-Verderber and-one. That free throw put the game away with the Bobwhites up 74-64 and 1:31 left.
* * *
Last Saturday in Vergennes, late scores by Logan Bean and Ryan Brown helped Milton overcome a tying 3-pointer by the Commodores for a 66-63 Lake Division basketball victory.
The Yellowjackets got points from nine players, led by Brown’s 23, and a focused defensive effort helped avenge a 63-56 home loss to Vergennes in their first meeting.
“Our defensive game plan was the key for our win today,” Brown said. “Logan Bean, Seth Herrity and Ethan Howell, each played great defense in the second half, giving up only a total of two points on their defensive assignment.”
Timely second-quarter baskets by Dylan Duffy, who scored all five of his points in the period, and Ian Jennings helped Milton take a 32-31 lead into the second half.
A combined 16 third-quarter points from Brown, Menard and Hanson increased the Yellowjackets’ edge to 50-47 going into the final period, and Milton held the lead for most of the fourth until Dylan Bradford’s 3-pointer tied it with two minutes to play,
Bradford scored 15 of his 23 points in the second half, and the equalizer was his third 3-pointer of the fourth quarter.
But Bean’s three-point play on a driving layup and Brown’s two foul shots with nine seconds left, plus a crucial defensive stop in the closing seconds, wrapped up the win for Milton.
In addition to the 23 points from Brown (three rebounds, two assists), Milton got eight each from seniors Kyle Apgar (six rebounds, two assists, two steals), Menard (four rebounds, three steals, two assists), and Bean (two assists),
Hanson finished with seven points and six rebounds, Duffy scored five, Joe Beaupre three with two steals, Herrity two with a pair of assists and steals, and Jennings had two with an assist and a steal.
Milton’s win left both Division II teams at 8-10 with two regular-season games remaining.
In contrast to the Yellowjackets, Vergennes got all but a dozen of its points from three players. Along with Bradford’s 23, Josh Dam scored 15 and Adam Gill 13.