Millbrook boys upset No. 2 Warriors
STEPHENS CITY — If blowing an 11-point lead with four minutes to play and losing on a buzzer-beater doesn’t get you steamed, you’re not a competitor.
And in its first game against Sherando since losing that lead to the Warriors on Jan. 29, all that bottled up frustration was unleashed in a gritty effort that gave the Millbrook boys’ basketball team its long-awaited revenge.
Swept by the Warriors in its two regular-season meetings, No. 7 Millbrook broke a tie score by outscoring its foes 26-10 in the second quarter, then fought off No. 2 Sherando in the second half to earn a 74-65 win in Tuesday’s Region II, Division 4 quarterfinal game.
“It’s been on our mind for a long time,” said Culbreath, who had 15 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. “The buzzer-beater killed us.”
But on Tuesday night, the Pioneers showed they were full of fighting spirit.
“You can’t hide from it,” Millbrook coach Scott Mankins said. “The last two days when we were getting ready, we talked about the end of the game. We watched the film from that game. If you hide from it, I think it’s going to repeat.
“We talked about it before the game today, we talked about it at halftime, we talked about at the end of the third quarter. The difference was the last time when they punched us, we buckled. Tonight when they punched, we stood up and punched back.”
Millbrook (13-10) will now get a chance to throw a figurative haymaker at another team that beat it at the buzzer. Sixth-seeded Briar Woods — which beat Millbrook 54-52 on Jan. 21 to earn a season split — beat No. 3 Liberty Tuesday 69-67, which means Millbrook will travel to play at Briar Woods Thursday in the semifinals.
Though it was the Pioneers’ second-quarter surge that got them a 37-21 halftime lead, Sherando (14-9) was only down 47-40 after three quarters as opposed to 48-37 in their last meeting, and the Warriors were only down 56-50 after an Isaiah Williams putback with 3:23 left.
But at that point, Millbrook stood its ground and attacked.
Thomas Baylor (team-high 16 points, five assists) broke Sherando’s trap and scored on a floater in the lane to make it 58-50 with 3:10 to go.
Millbrook — which gave Sherando (23-of-64 shooting, 17 turnovers) — fits with its three quarters-court trap and zone — then got a steal from Culbreath, who took it at Williams and Taylor Loudan for a layup that made it 60-50. Another Baylor drive made it 62-50, then a steal and layup from Cody Brooks made it 64-50 with 2:09 to go, completing an 8-0 run that essentially finished the Warriors.
Not surprisingly, defense played a big role in that spurt.
“We tried [that style of defense] the last two times, but they beat us down the floor,” Mankins said. “For tonight, we talked about not letting them doing that, and tonight I thought we did a better job of getting in position early, and sprinting back and rotating.”
As big as that spurt was, it was the tallest player on the floor who made the biggest difference in Millbrook’s second quarter performance.
Senior 6-foot-5 post Brandon Kibbe scored 10 of his 11 points in the second quarter, equaling Sherando’s point total.
Kibbe scored twice on putbacks, made two free throws after being fouled while he was going up to shoot after an offensive rebound, and made two other short-range buckets.
“I had a slight advantage height-wise, and I just thought I could take over and maybe push my team to the ‘W,’” Kibbe said. “I wanted to help score, help get rebounds, block shots and alter shots, and just play my best.”
Mankins said he definitely did that.
“We tell all our guys you never know when your chance is going to come up, and you’ve got to be ready,” Mankins said. “That’s probably the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
That quarter also saw Warriors star Aaron Miller (13 points) tied to the bench for all but 31 seconds after picking up his third foul with 6:26 to go. Miller also sat for the final 2:31 of the first quarter.
Sherando coach Garland Williams said it hurt not having his best player on the floor for that stretch, but the bottom line was that he didn’t feel his team executed its best.
“[Millbrook] did a great job, but we’re better than we showed tonight,” he said. “It’s a bad night to have that type of game. They had some good defensive rotation, and we didn’t hit the shots we needed to make.”
Overall though, Williams was proud of his team’s season, which saw the Warriors win their first regular season district crown since 2010.
“We did a heck of a job,” Williams said. “I told the guys before they left that if someone were to say we were going to win the district [before the season], I’m gonna say, ‘Yeah, right.’ ... We got some wins we needed to, and we were blessed to get those wins and able to get the district championship. We’ll take it.”
Senior guard Tanner Ruths, who did everything he could to keep Sherando’s season going with a game-high 21 points to go along with three steals, said the season was a fun ride.
“It was a great season,” Ruths said. “We came together as a family. We’ll always remember this season.”
T.J. Bruce added a game-high 13 rebounds for Millbrook and Taylor Loudan had 10 points for Sherando.
— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1