By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
CLAYTON — It took Milton-Union boys basketball coach Rusty Berner a minute to figure out when exactly the Bulldogs had last won a postseason game.
“It’s been a few years, the 2013-14 season. The fact we had to stop and think about it, I think, says it all,” he said.
Tuesday night, the Bulldogs made it easy to remember — as well as getting a fresh serving of revenge.
No. 10 Milton-Union ended a five-year postseason drought by routing No. 11 Arcanum — which had defeated the Bulldogs just two weeks prior in the regular season — emphatically putting away a 61-25 victory over the Tigers in a second-round matchup in the Division III sectional tournament Tuesday at Northmont High School.
The win improved Milton-Union’s record to 15-8, its most wins since going 14-9 in the 2012-13 season, and it was the Bulldogs’ first postseason victory since defeating Twin Valley South 64-54 in the second round of the 2013-14 sectional. Arcanum’s season, meanwhile, ended at 13-10, despite defeating the Bulldogs 64-53 on Feb. 11 at Arcanum.
“We’ve talked for the first week and a half and decided that, for a team to end our season, they’re going to have to beat our best. And we didn’t feel like, two weeks ago, they beat our best,” Berner said. “We didn’t play very well, and that was our focus.
“We really wanted to pace the tempo tonight, play baseline-to-baseline and force them into some pressure situations and attack them, not let them settle into the half-court. And our guys did a great job of that.”
And the key to Tuesday’s win was the way the Bulldogs defended, particularly Arcanum’s Carter Gray. Gray, who scored 25 points and became Arcanum’s all-time leading scorer in the first meeting between the teams, was held to only one field goal and four total points on the night, and the Tigers shot a mere 9 for 50 (18 percent) from the field altogether, including 1 for 20 (5 percent) from 3-point range. And when the ball didn’t go in, the Bulldogs controlled the boards, outrebounding the Tigers 39-28.
“Defensively? Holy cow,” Berner said. “Gray is such a gifted shooter, and we felt like if we could clean up some things on the back side and force him into more contested shots, we knew they would have trouble scoring. And the other thing was cleaning it up on the boards, and we did an okay job of that.
“The reality is that we shot 49 percent from the field, and they shot 18 percent — and 5 percent from 3. Credit that to our focus on defense. We threw different guys at Gray to keep them worn down. It was a great team effort.”
And after a sluggish start which included turnovers on its first three possessions of the game, Milton-Union got going with a 9-0 run to take a 12-10 lead after the first quarter, used a 12-0 run in the second to build a 31-14 lead by halftime and continued to torch the nets all night long. In the end, the Bulldogs were 22 for 45 (49 percent) from the field and a whopping 9 for 20 (45 percent) from beyond the arc.
“That first three possessions, you saw the same thing from two weeks ago — we were overthinking and not attacking,” Berner said. “Once we got through that and our confidence grew, the gameplan was there, and we felt like we were a better team than them. That confidence got us over the hump, and once we got into gear, they had trouble getting us out of that gear — and our confidence just kept snowballing from there.”
By the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs held a 26-point lead at 48-22, and they outscored the Tigers 13-3 in the final quarter to put the game away, even turning on the running clock in the game’s final minute after taking a lead bigger than 35 points.
And it was a team effort offensively, too, as four Bulldogs reached double digits on the night. Blake Brumbaugh led all scorers with 14 points and two steals, Sam Case hit three of Milton-Union’s nine 3s on the night and added 13 points, five rebounds and six assists, Nathan Brumbaugh had 11 points and two steals and Brandon Lavy had 10 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
Andrew Lambert added four points and four rebounds, Justin Randall added four points off the bench, Nathan Thompson had three points and Nick Radcliff had two points, six rebounds and two assists.
Jake Goubeaux led Arcanum with six points, Gray and Cade Brubaker each had four, Chase Werling had three points and four rebounds, Grant Delk had two points and seven rebounds and Chad Pitzer, Cameron Burke and Ian Baker each had two points.
All of that put Milton-Union in the district semifinal game, where it will face another familiar opponent in No. 3 Madison at 6 p.m. Saturday at Northmont. The Bulldogs split with the division champion Mohawks (21-3) on the regular season, winning 67-63 at Madison on Dec. 20, 2019, and then falling at home 59-45 on Jan. 24.
“It feels pretty good,” Berner said. “Fifteen wins … but I’ll tell you what. The kids, we had a lull in the middle of the season and got past that, and now it’s just ‘play the next game.’ And we’ve got to play our best again in our next game.
“It’s a good feeling to sit here with 15 wins, to get our first tournament win in six years, probably only our second in almost 17 years. To do that is a great thing, and these guys are enjoying this victory. And now they’re ready to take the next step and take on the Mohawks again.”
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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