Miller Grove back in playoffs with a bang; Avinger up next

By JOSEPH ELERSON, News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 20, 2008 - ROCKWALL - After a five-year absence from postseason play, the Miller Grove Hornets opened up their playoff journey in grand fashion with a 73-41 victory over the Waxahachie Cornerstone Eagles at Heath High School Tuesday night.

"I think we were looking ahead to Friday and playing Avinger," MGHS coach Gary Billingsley said. "That might be partly my fault, but even the stuff that we have been doing is not like we have been working on throwing the ball to the other team.

"I really think the kids were focusing more on Friday night than tonight. Our normal varsity seven are freshmen and sophomores and none of these kids have been to the playoffs before. I think that we were nervous, and we were overlooking the team that we were playing tonight."

With the win, the Hornets face the unenviable task of taking on the No. 5-ranked Avinger Indians (30-1) in the area round at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Mount Pleasant.

"We have to slow the game down a little bit, and we have worked on that," the coach said. "When we played Valley View last Saturday, we worked on the exact same stuff that we were going to do because they are very similar to Avinger. I think we can keep the game in the 50s and if they score more than 50, then it does not matter what we do in the game."

Against Waxahachie Cornerstone, the Hornets had two players record double-doubles, led by freshman Andrew Steele with 17 points and 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals, while classmate Mason Kerby added 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to go along with one assist.

"Mason Kerby did a great job tonight for us with his double-double," Billingsley said. "He really found a way to step up his game tonight."

Billingsley said he was disappointed with the way the Hornets came out in the first half as the team led 14-10 after the first quarter and 32-24 heading into halftime.

"The first half was embarrassing for us, and that is what I told them at halftime. I did not say that because of the score but how we were playing," he said. "Usually, we play better defense than we did tonight. Of their 24 points in the first half, 10 of them came on free throws and then seven layups. All 24 points came because we were not playing very good defense."

The Wildcats held their only lead of the game at 4-0 on back-to-back jumpers by junior Ryan Green before the Hornets found their shot and went 7-of-17 from the field in the quarter led by Kerby with eight points. Kerby gave the Hornets their biggest lead of the first quarter on an alley-oop layup from senior Yan Heijligers for a 14-8 lead with time running out.

The Eagles battled back to within three points, 21-18, in the second quarter on a bucket by Zach Boseman, but then Miller Grove went on a 12-6 run the remainder of the quarter for the halftime lead.

MGHS turned up its defensive pressure at the start of the second half and forced Waxahachie into 12 of their 31 turnovers in the third quarter. Heijligers came up with a steal and layup to give Miller Grove a 48-28 lead with 3:30 remaining. He finished the game with 10 points, six steals, four assists and one rebound for the Hornets.

Miller Grove shot 32-of-58 from the field for 55.2 percent, compared to 13-of-46 (28.3 percent) for the Eagles as MGHS turned the ball over 31 times in the game. The Hornets outrebounded Waxahachie Cornerstone, 49-27, and both teams were almost identical in steals as MG had 19, compared to 17 for the Eagles.

The Eagles were led in scoring by Kade Baird and Anderson, who scored 12 points each.

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