The semifinals of the small schools’ basketball tournament played at Hampton High School on Monday saw Little Milligan, Central and the Jr. Lady Rangers earn trips to the championships set for Thursday.
Two consolation games will be played, with games beginning at 5 p.m.
On the girls’ side, Little Milligan will play Keenburg for third place while Central takes on Unaka in the championship tilt.
The consolation game on the boys’ side will see Unaka face Keenburg. Central and Little Milligan clash to settle things for all the marbles.
Little Milligan…………….. 11
Unaka posted points for 11 players in the game, with Hannah Tipton scoring a game-high 10.
Keena Taylor scored seven for the Lady Jr. Rangers while Madison Mann, Tiffany Covarrubias and Madison Ensor each scored four.
Unaka dominated the boards in this game, leading to a great deal of second-chance opportunities.
Autumn Reece scored six points on two long range threes and Tori Cable added three for the Lady Buffs.
Little Milligan…………….. 42
John Paul Russell and Tim Hartley each tallied eight points in this contest as the Buffs coasted after taking a 27-8 lead at halftime.
“We got ahead of them and it’s easier to play with a lead than to come from behind,” said Little Milligan coach J.R. Campbell. “We always try to play these tournaments in a high school gym. It gives the kids great memories of playing the game. It’s always a cyclical thing as far as talent goes at this level.
“Some years you have the horses and some years you don’t, but we all know that. It’s exciting when you have a good group.”
Hartley canned a pair of treys in the first half to help the Buffs to their big halftime advantage, but Keenburg made a game of it in the second half. Little Milligan outscored the Tigers 15-10 after intermission, but Keenburg never let down.
Dakota Crumley (10 rebounds) and Jose Velazquez each scored seven for the Buffs, who got seven assists from Charlie Butler.
Jesse Edens scored a team-high eight points and knocked in a pair of threes for the Tigers. Nathaniel Frost scored five and also hit on a long bomb.
The Jr. Rangers had the early advantage, but the trio of Josh Hammonds, Jose Burgos and post Jerry Greer quickly overcame the Rangers and got things rolling for the Comets.
Burgos scored a game-high 20 points, showing speed and power in his drives to the hoop while Hammonds dished off seven assists and scored 14 for Central
“I would rather get all my teammates involved and have them get points, rather than me scoring 50,” said Hammonds. “A win tonight was what we were looking for and we have come a long way as a team. I feel like it’s going to be a great matchup with us and Little Milligan.”
Greer controlled the post and the boards with 18 points and 11 rebounds, despite playing with foul trouble throughout the second half.
The Comets led 23-15 at the break, but could only extend that lead to 34- 23 going into the fourth quarter as the Rangers continued to play hard to keep themselves within striking distance.
One thing that hurt the Unaka effort was free throw shooting as the Rangers were just 12-for-23 from the charity stripe, a fact not lost on coach Tee Blevins.
“We missed a lot of free throws and some wide-open layups,” said Blevins. “I thought we started the game out real well, and had a good game plan. We knew they had the big three and wanted to attack them and get them in foul trouble.
“We did that, but we couldn’t get any of them fouled out. Once we got the lead they came back and kind of hit us in the mouth which put us in shock a little bit.”
The Comets came out in the fourth quarter with a pair of baskets by Burgos before Unaka’s Micah Hunt sank two free throws — but Greer followed with a putback of an offensive rebound for a deuce for Central.
Hammonds then hit a dagger three pointer to put the Comets in front 45-27 and Burgos finished an end to-end run with a layup for the knockdown punch that gave Central a 20-point advantage.
Hunt led the Rangers with 17 points while Kyler Lewis had five. Zachary Burem finished with four points and seven rebounds for the Rangers.