Michael Stainbrook reports:
Milford used its size and experience to edge past a pesky Kings squad for a critical Eastern Cincinnati Conference road win.
The Eagles trailed most of the game but outlasted the Knights 55-49 to start a five-game road stretch to close out 2012. Milford had an edge with four senior starters and two sizeable forwards, while Kings started no seniors and lacked size inside.
Senior forward and Bowling Green commit Garrett Mayleben led Milford with 14 points, and senior guard Brennan Farrell added 13.
Kings overcame some sloppy play early to lead most of the game before Milford (4-2, 3-1 ECC) pulled away in the closing minutes. The Eagles’ second-half defensive adjustments and clutch free-throw shooting proved to be the difference in what coach Joe Cambron described as a crucial game.
“Our backs were against the wall,” Cambron said. “This was an absolute must-win for us to even have a shot at a conference championship.”
Kings built an early lead by using it speed on the perimeter to open holes in the paint. Sophomore guard Cameron Fails and junior forward Jamison Williams led the charge as the Knights settled into an offensive rhythm and opened a nine-point first-half lead. Milford responded to cut the lead with a few well-executed pick-and-roll plays but still trailed by five at halftime.
Kings shot 57 percent from the field in the first half.
“When any team shoots 57 percent you’re going to have a hard time having the lead in that situation,” Cambron said. “Our defense shored up a little bit in the second half, and we became a little bit more like our Milford team we’re supposed to be.”
Milford picked up the pace in the third quarter by creating transition chances and by capitalizing at the free-throw line. A transition layup by senior guard Josiah Greve tied the game as time ran out in the third quarter.
The game remained tight into the fourth quarter before Milford took the lead on a basket by Mayleben. Kings tried to keep the pace slow as time ran down, but Milford put the game away on a transition layup by senior guard Joe Zurschmiede.
The Eagles finished the game a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line. They will play four more road games before returning home to face conference favorite Walnut Hills Jan. 4.
The Knights got a game-high 17 points from Williams and 10 from junior guard Josh Woody.
Kings (1-4, 1-3 ECC) committed 21 turnovers in the loss but showed signs of improvement, such as winning the rebounding battle against a bigger squad.
“We’re getting better. We’ve had a tough schedule,” Kings coach Mike Stevens said. “Our scoring is getting better. I think our guys are starting to adjust to their roles better.”