By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
DAYTON — Entering the season, the Milton-Union girls basketball team knew it couldn’t expect the same kind of offensive production it was used to in the past few years.
And those offensive struggles led the Bulldogs to a first-round matchup to open the Division III sectional tournament against one of the best teams in the area Saturday at Northridge High School as No. 2 West Liberty-Salem knocked off No. 15 Milton-Union 50-11.
Milton-Union finished the season 8-14, while the Tigers (17-6) advance to face No. 16 Indian Lake in a second-round game Tuesday.
It was the Bulldogs’ first season after the graduation of 1,000-point scorer Kristen Dickison, who averaged 20.2 points per game last season and led the team to a 14-8 record.
“We knew we were going to struggle, losing 1,000-point scorer Kristen Dickison,” Milton-Union coach Katie Roose said. “We thought we had some pieces to the puzzle to help, that it wasn’t going to be one person scoring 20 points for us, and we did throughout the season. We had girls step up in different scenarios — but we didn’t have that one solid, consistent person.”
And Saturday, those struggles hit a peak as the Bulldogs scored a season low, going without a field goal in a two-point second quarter and being shut out entirely in the third as West Liberty-Salem’s lead went from 15-6 after one to 49-8 heading into the fourth.
The Bulldogs did what they could to keep pace early, trailing 10-4 after a Jayla Gentry bucket and 12-6 after a drive by Morgan Grudich. But Milton-Union simply couldn’t get any shots to fall from the field in the second quarter, and the Tigers cleaned up the glass, outrebounding the Bulldogs 23-7 in the first half and 37-13 in the game.
“I was proud of our first-half effort. I thought we played well in the half-court defensively — we just couldn’t rebound the basketball,” Roose said. “They did an excellent job on the boards, all day long, really, but especially in the first half. And we struggled offensively, and those struggles continued in the second half.
“Everyone has to be an offensive threat, but we just didn’t have that today.”
A free throw by Taylor Falb made the score 20-8 early in the second quarter, and from there West Liberty-Salem scored 26 unanswered points to put the game away, with a fourth-quarter 3-pointer by Falb being the only other Bulldog basket in the game. On one series in the second quarter, Milton-Union missed a shot at a transition layup, only to have the Tigers take it the other way and convert a three-point play on the other end — a series that summed up most of the day.
“Offensively, we had some opportunities that we couldn’t finish on,” Roose said. “We miss a layup at one end, they go to the other end and hit a three-point play. And they just continued to build momentum in the second half.”
Defensively, Milton-Union simply had no answer for the Tigers’ Selena Weaver in the post. The 5-foot-11 junior had a double-double by halftime and finished with a game-high 15 points and 15 rebounds.
“Weaver is tough. She’s a nice player, and we knew she was a nice player coming in,” Roose said. “We told Jayla she’d have to be physical and work hard on her. I didn’t think Jayla did a bad job on her. She’s just a solid post player.”
Grace Estes added 11 points, Emily Hollar had eight points, Hallie Smith scored six, Aubrey Williams added five and Sophie Cole scored two.
It was the final game in the careers of Milton-Union seniors Rachel Thompson and Megan Jacobs.
“What Rachel and Megan brought to the table day in and day out the last four years, you could never question their work ethic,” Roose said. “They never complained about their situation, whether it was playing time or asking them to step up and do something maybe they weren’t uncomfortable with. Rachel hasn’t had to run the point in the last three years, and we asked her to do that senior year — and she did a fantastic job of it. They never questioned what we did as coaches, and they’ve been tremendous assets to our basketball program.”
Grudich and Falb each scored four points for the Bulldogs, Gentry added two points and four rebounds and Thompson scored one point.
“Morgan did a nice job this year,” Roose said. “She accepted a lot of offensive responsibility this year, and she was probably our go-to player offensively. The girls all work hard, but we knew it was going to be a struggle.
“They came in every day and worked hard, and they were a fun group to coach. The younger girls are going to have to continue to get better and work at it in the offseason. But it’s been a fun year, despite what our record might show.”
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