LINDALE – The Miller Grove Hornets can say that they were back into postseason play after a 20 year dry spell.
It was in 1988 that the Hornets achieved the area round, and in 1983 both the girls and boys’ teams were in regionals. But it was last night’s Class 1A Division II Regional Quarterfinal game against the defending state champion Laneville Yellowjackets that Miller Grove had the wind taken from their sails in a 72-58 loss.
“We had a crappy second half, you take that away, and it was a one point game,” said Miller Grove Hornets head basketball coach Gary Billingsley disappointedly. “We didn’t play defense and with a team (Laneville) this good you can’t afford to do that.” Miller Grove started strong and had a 14-13 first quarter lead with the scoring bursts of starters Andrew Steele with two buckets and Aaron Baylus scoring 10 of his 21 points. But it was the second quarter that set the tone. It started with a jump ball brawl at half court that allowed the ball to go back into the agile hands of Laneville. Yellowjacket Gerraylon Carey put up a one-handed basket. Seth Roberts released a long bomb just shy of three points for Miller Grove to move the scoreboard to 18-16 still in Laneville’s favor.
The Miller Grove crowd sported green and gold pom poms and chanted their support for their Hornets. Yellowjacket Michael Anderson grabs a defensive steal for another trey, but Roberts added two off a steal by Baylus. Steele got back into action with another 3-pointer. Laneville was quick on the rebound and always in position. Roberts sent another ball to swish for two to put score 31-21. Laneville had the moves and denied the baseline with several plays.
Baylus added another bucket to give the Hornets 23 points. Carey, No. 11 for the Yellowjackets, put in a bucket to bring his running total points to 11. It was 37-23 at the break.
Hornet Cayle Watson went air born to start the third quarter off with a Miller Grove score. Only to witness Laneville’s Jerrod Anderson hit a top-of-key trey. The Hornets showed trouble getting pass plays completed but fought through to Steele for an under-the-basket two pointer.
Both teams rallied back and forth, with a completed foul shot by Laneville the score went up 48-34 in their favor. With about two minutes on the third quarter play clock, Hornet Mason Kerby drove down for a clear, wide-open two point bucket. Steele swished a buzzer shot for a 54-42 end to the third.
The fourth began as the second with a jump ball between the two opposing No. 3 players Roberts and Anderson, this time it went into the Hornets territory. Unfortunately, Laneville anticipated all of Miller Grove’s moves. The Yellowjackets were quick to pop the ball out from a Hornet dribble. The Hornets used energy in many attempts to keep the ball inbounds.
With 4:54 left on the clock and a 60-44 Laneville score, an inbounds play by Laneville caused coach Billingsley to duck or become part of the game. Another errant Miller Grove pass allowed Laneville the ball. Steele recovered rebound to sink a corner 3-pointer near the home court bench. Kerby popped the net as the Laneville defense slowed. Billingsley tried to rally his team for more pressure on the half court, but with 3:15 it was clear that the defending state champions were back in line for a second run. Baylus was unrelenting and put in another two points followed by teammate Steele with a buzzer two pointer.
“I was proud of how the kids played hard until the end,” he added as Laneville took home a 14 point win. “Maybe not at Lindale, but it will be the same teams next year—us and them—in the same round of the playoffs,” Billingsley predicted due to the fact neither team is losing many to graduation. “We will be ready.”
Miller Grove 14-9-19-16—58
Miller Grove—Andrew Steele 22, Tim Heijligers 3, Seth Roberts 4, Mason Kerby 4, Cayle Watson 2, Jordan Lennon 2, Aaron Baylus 21.
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