By ROBBIE MAHER
SWANTON — Senior Richard Walker narrowly missed out on his fourth triple-double of the season, as the team captain had 32 points (10 coming from the free-throw line on 12 attempts), 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Walker’s performance allowed his MVU Thunderbirds to cruise to a 76-58 victory over the visiting Milton Yellowjackets.
The Yellowjackets hung tough with the T-Birds for the entire first quarter, trailing only 14-12. But the barn door blew open to start the second.
It began when T-Bird freshman Ethan Creller (7 points) hit a momentum-building 3-pointer to start the second. Walker followed with an easy hook shot for two points in a mismatch over a smaller defender.
After a Milton turnover, senior Cayden Theberge (9 points, 8 rebounds) converted on a fast break, and then scored on a one-and-one after getting slammed down by a Milton defender.
Finally, after nearly four minutes and a 7-point swing, Milton was able to stop the run on an Ian Jennings (8 points, 5 rebounds) layup.
However, the T-Birds immediately heated up again after a deep 2-pointer from Riley Wilkin (9 points, 3 rebounds) started the second mini-run and a 9-point swing. The streak was capped off by Walker’s putback for two to beat the halftime buzzer that ignited the Thunderbird faithful.
One of the biggest problems for Milton was their inability to pull down rebounds when matched up with Walker and fellow big-man Nick Cutting (18 points 8 rebounds). The two seniors combined for 18 rebounds, about half the Yellowjackets’ team total.
“Nick and Richard led the way for us tonight,” MVU coach Jim Bose said.
“But having five guys almost in double figures is huge,” Bosed continued. “Then we start looking at our assists numbers, and that’s huge.”
Walker spent most of his night in the low post and paint either converting on hook shots and layups or penetrating and kicking the ball out to fellow captain Cutting to take open 3-pointers — Cutting had four on the night.
“When Richard starts in the low post, I know our offense is going to be OK,” Bose said. “If they start doubling Richard in the paint, then we are going to kick it out to Cutting.”
For Milton, Hanson led the rebounding effort with nine while Brown had seven — all but one on the offensive side — and Deven Creamer grabbed six. Hanson also blocked a pair of MVU shots and Tre Sherwood blocked one. Brown added three assists and two steals, with Creamer adding two assists and a steal. Seth Herrity led in assists with six and had four rebounds, as did Will Scarpinato and Ian Jennings.
The Thunderbirds (12-4) are ranked fifth in Division I while Milton (7-8) dropped to eighth in the Division II standings.