By Josh Brown
TROTWOOD — Milton-Union’s Kristen Dickison entered Wednesday’s Division III sectional semifinal matchup as a 75.5 percent free throw shooter.
But the misses simply snowballed in the game, as she missed her first six attempts in a nail-biter against Ben Logan.
“That was a struggle,” the junior said. “Every time I missed one, I’d say that I’d make the next one … but it didn’t work a lot.”
The ones she did make, though, proved to be the difference.
Dickison sank a pair of free throws with 1:03 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 38-34 lead, and after the Raiders got back to within two — and with another four straight misses from the line in between — she intercepted a pass with only six seconds remaining and hit one of two to help put away a 39-36 victory Wednesday at Trotwood High School — Milton-Union’s girls basketball team’s first postseason win since 2009.
“It feels amazing,” Dickison, who finished with a team-high 11 points, said of the tournament win. “(Shooting free throws) was frustrating, but I knew I had to do it to keep the team up. (I felt the pressure) a lot.”
After two straight seasons with winning records — but still without tournament wins — Milton-Union, the No. 10 seed, improved to 11-12 with the victory and advanced to next week’s sectional championship game, while eighth-seeded Ben Logan’s season came to an end at 16-7.
“It feels great. I’m so happy for the girls,” said Milton-Union coach Katie Roose, who got her first postseason win in her fifth year as head coach. “We talked about taking it one game at a time, but also how we control our own destiny. And I could tell from practice yesterday that they were focused and motivated and hungry, and they buckled down and did everything they needed to to get themselves a tournament win. And I’m so proud of them for that.”
And the Bulldogs did it despite shooting so poorly from the free throw line. They were 4 for 18 as a team — including 3 for 10 in the fourth quarter when they had the chance to put the game away — with Dickison going 3 for 14 in the game, but with those big three makes in the fourth quarter on eight tries.
“And she is a 75 percent free throw shooter,” Roose said. “I’m not kidding you. They had all the momentum, especially in that last three minutes, but the girls withstood it. And we had look after look after look and opportunity after opportunity after opportunity that just didn’t fall. But I’m proud of my girls in that they were hungry, they worked at it and they were able to get the job done.”
And the majority of what the Bulldogs had to do involved containing Ben Logan’s Nikki Current, a 2,000-point scorer for her career who entered the night averaging 26 points per game this year. Wednesday night, though, Current was held to 15 points — still the game-high total, but well below her average. And as a team, the Raiders averaged 60.6 points per game coming in and had scored more than 80 in each of its last three games, all wins — but the Bulldogs held them to 13 for 43 (30.2 percent) from the field and their second-lowest point total of the season.
“Defense is something that I preach every single day all season long,” Roose said. “I tell my girls if we can stop a team from scoring, hold them to at least 10 points under their average, we’re going to at least give ourselves a shot. And these girls have really bought into that defensive mindset. We’re one of the leaders in our league in defense. To be able to do that and be able to hold a team that averages 60-plus points a game to just 36, I’m pretty dang proud.”
Ben Logan was hot early, though, hitting all three of its 3s in the first quarter to grab an 11-6 lead after one. But Milton-Union’s stingy defense only allowed two second-quarter field goals and forced a number of turnovers — with Dickison finishing off three of those with easy transition layups. Dickison scored all eight of her first-half points in the second, including six of them during a 12-0 run that turned a 15-8 deficit into a 20-15 halftime lead.
The Raiders cut the lead back to one at 22-21 after a layup by Savannah Pavoni, but a jumper by Morgan Nemeth kicked off a quick 7-0 run by the Bulldogs, capped off by a putback by Olivia Brown after a missed pair of free throws. Another putback by Beyonce Bobbitt later gave Milton-Union a 30-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The lead grew as big as 11 at 34-23 after another score by Nemeth, but Current finally found some room, scoring six straight points to get the Raiders back in the game and force a timeout with 2:57 remaining. The Bulldogs struggled to get anything to fall, but with less than two minutes remaining Brown scored on a fast break to make the score 36-32.
Pavoni hit a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game with 1:31 remaining, but Dickison hit the biggest two free throws of the night with 1:03 on the clock to make the score 38-34. Pavoni answered by hitting a jumper to cut the lead back to two, but Milton-Union’s defense buckled down, not even allowing an attempt at a potential game-tying 3 after Dickison’s free throw with :06 on the clock made it a three-point game.
For Ben Logan, Current had 15 points, Pavoni added 14 points and five rebounds, Nya Worrell had five points and seven rebounds and Pamela Kelly had two points and six rebounds.
Dickison added eight rebounds to her 11 points, Brown had eight points and 10 rebounds and Bobbitt had eight points and five rebounds as Milton-Union outrebounded Ben Logan 44-31 in the game. Nemeth scored six points, Annika Hutchinson had three points, Jayla Gentry had two points and six rebounds and Rachel Thompson had one point.
Now Milton-Union will face a familiar opponent in the sectional final — the Bulldogs will play No. 2 Waynesville Tuesday. Milton-Union was 0-2 against the Spartans during the regular season, falling 50-46 in overtime and 43-40.
“This is what we wanted,” Roose said. “When we went into the draw, we wanted to get into Waynesville’s bracket. We’ve played them tough twice, losing to them by a combined seven points in our two losses — one of those in overtime. This is who we wanted to give ourselves a shot at. We’re excited to have the opportunity to play Waynesville a third time this season.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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