By BEN KAUFMANN
St. Albans Messenger Sports
The scratching and clawing that accompanies Lake Division boys basketball matchups arrived in style Tuesday, with Milton picking up a 67-59 win over BFA-St. Albans.
The Yellowjackets (6-2) denied BFA (1-7) their first win in nearly a month with a monster third quarter and crafty play down the stretch. Milton has won six of its last seven while the Bobwhites are left without a victory since December 17.
“Milton has a very good team,” BFA coach Matt Toof said. “We hit a couple of big shots, especially in the first half. And then the [Deven] Creamer kid just answered. That’s the making of a really good team. They hit their foul shots at the end, they executed pretty well; that’s a pretty good team.”
Creamer hit a team-high 18 points for the Yellowjackets and added eight rebounds in a flawless two-way effort. His most impactful moments came late in the first half. After BFA’s Taylor Yates hit a pair of threes and put the Bobwhites up by five, Creamer nailed consecutive threes on Milton’s final possessions to give the hosts a 30-29 halftime lead.
“Deven Creamer had an incredible game. I don’t even know his line but it was big across the board,” Milton coach Chris Brown said. “He had those six points at the end of the first half and I thought that really set up a good second half for us.”
Toof acknowledged that BFA was ready to attack Milton star Ian Jennings (17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals) but had trouble adding the burden of a hot Creamer to its to-do list.
“Creamer to me was the difference,” he said. “After we hit a three he’d hit a three, and that kills your momentum when you’re on the road like that.”
The teams entered Tuesday in different places. Milton had won five of six and is fighting for a top-eight spot in the Division II playoffs. BFA has found wins hard to come by in a brutal stretch of schedule that has dropped the Bobwhites near the bottom of the Division I standings. This was BFA’s first game against a D-II team and Milton’s first against a D-I opponent. The game was a typically close one between Milton and St. Albans, with Milton holding a one-point lead at the end of each of the first two quarters (14-13 and 30-29).
“They battle,” Brown said of BFA. “And as Matt [Toof] says it’s a great group of guys he’s coaching and they work hard. They’re eager to please and learn. I expect them to be right there at the top of the Lake this year. They’re physical, they battle hard, they’ve got length and some guys that can shoot and some size inside. It’s a good team.”
The Yellowjackets took control in the third quarter, rolling out to a 44-34 lead. A foolish technical foul from Milton helped BFA stick around, trailing just 49-43 with a minute left in the third and 52-43 entering the fourth.
“Our third-quarter defense was nice and I think we had over 20 in the third and opened up a nice lead, so we were able to sustain the run they had late,” Brown added.
Just when Milton was in prime position to put the game away, the Bobwhites came back to all but erase the deficit in the fourth. Up just 56-54 with a little over four minutes to play, Jennings hit a playmaker’s shot by burying a step-back three with a defender inches away to make it 59-54.
Milton suffered from a trio of abysmal turnovers — Kameron Dunsmore and James Lowe stole Milton passes and converted the breakaways on consecutive possessions — in the final minutes, but hit the necessary free throws to hold off St. Albans.
“St. Albans put some good pressure on us,” Brown said. “We made some mistakes, inbounding the ball particularly, which gave them some good line drives late and scores. But once they got it within a couple I liked our composure; guys being able to protect the ball, attack the rim, and make their free throws.”
Creamer and Jennings combined to hit seven of eight foul shots in the fourth quarter, making it impossible for BFA to finish the comeback.
Behind the big nights from Creamer and Jennings, Sam Patterson (4 assists) and Colby Mason (3 rebounds) each scored seven points for Milton. Colby Ducharme tallied five points and five rebounds. Colin Mathis had a similar line of four points and four rebounds. Andrew Harvey (4 rebounds, 4 assists), Kyle Brown (2 assists, 2 rebounds) and Brandon Dallas each scored three points.
Milton will jockey for position in both Division II and the Lake when it returns for a tough test against Vergennes on Friday.