By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — A missed layup at the end of the second quarter.
Scattered possessions throughout spoiled by turnovers.
All of those little things added up to make the difference for the Milton-Union boys basketball team in their season opener, while an 11-0 third-quarter run by Franklin Monroe changed the game for the Jets in a 53-43 victory over the Bulldogs Tuesday night at Milton-Union High School.
“Right now, what we’re trying to teach these guys is it’s all those little things that add up throughout a game,” first year Milton-Union coach Mike Piatt after his team’s debut. “One turnover here, a missed layup there. If we figure that out and we’re mentally tough to take care of those little things, we’ll be pretty good.”
Milton-Union (0-1) controlled the action for the entire first half and into the second. One of Franklin Monroe’s two big men, Kameron Thurmond, had to sit with early foul trouble, and the Bulldogs’ Blake Ullery took advantage, scoring nine points in the first quarter to stake the Bulldogs out to a 17-9 lead after one.
But the Jets took advantage of Ullery and Zach Vagedes both being forced to sit with foul trouble and, behind the 3-point shooting of Parker Hesler, fought back to tie the game by halftime at 21-21. The Bulldogs retook the lead early in the third, but an 11-0 run that included two more 3s by Hesler in the middle of the quarter put Franklin Monroe up by nine, and Milton-Union could not bounce back.
“You have to give them (Franklin Monroe) credit, they had a run in the third quarter, but we didn’t do the little things and take care of the ball,” Piatt said. “If we take care of the ball there, we’re probably in pretty good shape. They’re a good team, and we’re a very young team. But that’s no excuse — I thought we played hard. We battled. We just had problems with turnovers, and we’ve got to get better at that.
“Obviously, we would’ve liked to have won. But I was very pleased with our effort. We had that bad third quarter and just couldn’t recover from it.”
First, Hesler canned a game-tying 3 to make the score 21-21, then a missed layup right before halftime by the Bulldogs kept the score tied at the break. But Milton-Union jumped back on top to start the second half, with Daniel Albaugh hitting a jumper and Blake Smith converting a steal with a layup. Franklin Monroe answered with a bucket inside by Ethan Conley, but a 3 by Vagedes gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the second half at 28-23.
Milton-Union was efficient from the field all night, going 18 for 30 (60 percent) in the game. But the Jets had a large rebounding edge, 28-11, and forced 13 Bulldog turnovers while committing 11 themselves.
“I thought we only took one bad shot all night. And we have to play that way,” Piatt said. “We have to turn our offense over, be patient and give ourselves a chance. But turnovers were a problem tonight. We’ll get better at that.”
After William Morris gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead with a tough drive to the hoop, the Jets took over. Hesler hit a 3, the Bulldogs turned it over and Hesler hit another 3 to make the score 34-30. A steal and layup by Mason Conley extended the lead more, then a free throw by Ethan Conley, an offensive rebound on the miss and a basket by Zach Cable made it 39-30, and the closest the Bulldogs got from there was six points, down 41-35 after three quarters on a buzzer-beating Albaugh 3.
Franklin Monroe’s Ethan Conley led all scorers with 17 points, going 9 for 11 from the free throw line, and adding five rebounds, while Hesler was 5 for 6 from the 3-point line and scored 15 points. Mason Conley added nine points and four rebounds and Cable had eight points and four rebounds.
“We had to pick our poison a little bit,” Piatt said. “(Ethan) Conley had 30 points in their win over Troy Christian, and we knew if he got the ball in the high post, we’d be in big trouble. We made a conscious decision in our matchup zone to not let Conley get the ball, and Hesler made us pay with some 3s. But If I had it to do again, I’d play it the same way.”
Ullery led the Bulldogs with 12 points and four rebounds, with Morris adding 11 points and two assists. Blake Smith had nine points and three assists, Albaugh had eight points and two assists and Vagedes had three points and two assists.
Milton-Union hosts Preble Shawnee Friday night in its Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division opener.
“I’m real happy with our kids,” Piatt said. “I thought, at times, we looked like a pretty good basketball team. We’ve just got to keep duplicating those times.”
All while taking care of the little things.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.