YORK TWP. — There’s no denying Jeff Miller had the game of his life Friday night as the Buckeye boys basketball team defeated Wellington 72-67 in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division action.
But an explanation for why the rugged and strong 6-foot-3 junior was able to finish with 27 points and 11 rebounds got three different answers from three different people.
Buckeye coach Matt Saunders, whose team improved to 11-5, 8-4 and stayed atop the Stars Division, had the most succinct reason: Miller is pretty good to begin with and was on fire against the Dukes (6-11, 6-6).
“He was in the zone,” Saunders said. “When he’s hitting that 15-footer, he’s a tough matchup. You can’t come out on him because he’ll beat you off the dribble.”
Miller, who had matched his previous career high of 16 points by halftime, had the most cerebral answer, attributing his big night to the fact he moved from center to power forward and stayed out of foul trouble because the Bucks started 6-5 junior Chris Vogt in the middle for the first time this season.
“Having two bigs was nice,” Miller said. “It took their best big kid off me and put him on Chris and it helped me stay out of foul trouble, which has been a big problem for me all year. Chris Vogt really helped me out.”
Wellington coach Dan Gundert had a slightly different take. He praised Miller, but said the Dukes’ poor defense and inability to rebound were even bigger factors.
“He was a handful,” Gundert said of Miller. “He played really well tonight, but they were beating us to every loose ball and rebound. They killed us on the glass. They got three or four shots every time. Rebounding is effort, and we didn’t get it done tonight.”
Until Wellington made things interesting with a 27-point fourth quarter, Buckeye’s dominance was immediate and thorough.
The Bucks never trailed, jumping to a 9-2 lead in the first 3:11 en route to a 37-27 lead at intermission. Buckeye stretched it 55-40 after three periods and held on despite 7-for-14 shooting at the foul line in the final quarter.
“The free throw line has been a problem since Day 1,” Saunders said. “It’s one of those terrible things going through the whole team. It’s an epidemic. If we hit free throws, this game is closed out and it doesn’t have to be as stressful down the stretch.”
Some credit must also go to the Dukes’ 3-D attack of Dylan Kidd, Dylan Weidrick and Dave Clark, who combined for 54 of their team’s 67 points, 12 of its 24 rebounds and five of its six assists.
Kidd, a left-handed point guard, made 10-of-11 free throws en route to 20 points, three boards and three assists, while the 6-4 Weidrick, who had to battle Vogt and Miller inside, had 20 points and six rebounds. Clark hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 14 points, with nine coming in the final quarter.
Wellington made it 66-63 with 1:20 to go — reserve Joey Holliday hit three free throws in a span of 4 seconds — and had a chance to get closer, but committed a turnover. The Dukes got the ball back again after Vogt missed two free throws, but committed another turnover.
Buckeye then started making a few free throws and got a bucket from Miller inside to ice the game.
“I was starting to bite my nails,” Miller said. “I give them credit. Wellington battled the entire game.”
The Dukes, who have dropped seven of their last nine games, battled until the end, but were never quite able to overcome their slow start.
“That’s been our problem all year,” Gundert said. “Against a good team like Buckeye, playing in their gym, you can’t give them a lead like that. They’re too good of a basketball team. It was too little, too late for us.”
Vogt, who began the night averaging 4.3 points and missed some games early in the season due to an oblique injury, backed Miller with 14 points and eight rebounds, while Garrett Beck, who missed some practices during the week due to an illness, came off the bench for 12 points, four boards and three assists.
The Bucks also got solid contributions from Matt Cox (5 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists), Mike Bacho (4, 3, 2), Ryan Grauel (2, 2, 5) and Cory Inman (4 points, 3 assists), but the difference in the game was Miller.
Of course, the way Miller saw it, the difference was having Vogt inside with him.
“I loved having Chris in there with me,” Miller said. “We were getting physical down there and playing really well off one another.”
|Robert Miller had 16 points and Nathan Polidori added 15 as Buckeye won the junior varsity game 53-36. Matt Bullock led the Dukes with 11.|
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 72, Wellington 67
WELLINGTON 13 14 13 27 — 67
BUCKEYE 17 20 18 17 — 72
Wellington — Dave Clark 4-4-14, Tim Young 2-1-5, Dylan Weidrick 8-4-20, Jacob Grimmett 2-0-5, Dylan Kidd 5-10-20, Joey Holliday 0-3-3, Tony Walker 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-22-67.
Buckeye — Mike Bacho 2-0-4, Jeff Miller 11-5-27, Chris Vogt 7-0-14, Matt Cox 2-1-5, Cory Inman 1-1-4, Garrett Beck 5-0-12, Ryan Grauel 0-2-2, Curtis Kinney 1-0-2, John Tighe 0-0-0, Nick Prest 1-0-2. TOTALS: 30-9-72.
3-point goals — Clark 2, Grimmett, Beck 2, Inman. Rebounds — Wellington 24 (Weidrick 6), Buckeye 32 (Miller 11). Assists — Wellington 6 (Kidd 3), Buckeye 22 (Cox 6). Records — Wellington (6-11, 6-6), Buckeye (11-5, 8-4). Junior varsity — Buckeye 53, Wellington 36.