By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
WEST MILTON — When Milton-Union girls basketball coach Katie Roose saw how well her team shot free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter, she couldn’t hide how pleased it was.
“We shot 18 free throws in the fourth? And made 15? That’s real good,” she said. “I don’t know that we’ve shot that many all year.”
With Milton-Union holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth, Carlisle began to foul in an effort to catch up — but the Bulldogs went 15 for 18 from the free throw line in the final quarter alone and the defense held the Indians to only one basket in the final four minutes, allowing Milton-Union to put the finishing touches on a 52-32 in a key early-season Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division matchup between unbeaten teams Thursday at home.
A drive by Rachel Thompson gave Milton-Union (3-0, 2-0 SWBL Buckeye) a 38-29 lead with roughly four minutes to play, and that’s when Carlisle began to foul. Kristen Dickison went 9 for 10 from the line herself and the Bulldog defense got stop after stop, building a 52-29 strictly from the line before the Indians finally hit a meaningless 3 on the game’s final possession.
All told, the Bulldogs were 21 for 26 (80.8 percent) from the free throw line in the game — and they’ve shot free throws well all season, going 9 for 12 (75 percent) in the season opener and 15 for 21 (71.4 percent) on Tuesday night.
“We did a nice job late making sure that we continued to play defense and forced them to come foul us,” Roose said. “I thought my girls did a nice job knocking down those free throws, too. I’m proud of the girls being able to make those important shots late.
“Those free throws are important, and they will certainly always help. I told the girls that, in a closer game, now you’ve got the confidence to be able to hit those, and that’ll pay off.”
But Carlisle (3-1, 1-1 SWBL Buckeye) didn’t make anything easy, and with Dickison — who had led the Bulldogs with 30 and 31 points in their first two games — picking up a quick two fouls with 3:23 left in the first quarter and having to sit, Milton-Union nervously held a 12-3 lead after one quarter.
“That’s been one of our bigger concerns going into the season — how are we going to cope with somebody getting in foul trouble?” Roose said. “When Kristen picked up her second there in the first quarter, I thought our girls stepped up and handled it. And then we were able to get her back in late in the second quarter, and she was able to reassert herself a little — which was real important going into the second half.”
Complicating matters further was Carlisle’s Kaylee Dingee, who blocked four Bulldog shots in the first half and finished with six of the Indians’ 10 blocks on the night.
“They had a lot of blocked shots,” Roose said. “I told our post players that we needed to continue to challenge. They did stop us inside, but I thought our guards did a nice job being able to take it off the dribble and dish it here and there, which was important in terms of keeping the post players involved.”
But Madison Jones and Rachel Thompson were able to help pick up the slack. The duo combined for 10 first-half points and helped keep Carlisle off the boards in the first half, helping the Bulldogs maintain a 14-11 lead late in the second quarter when Dickison was able to come back in and collect seven first-half points — with a layup by Thompson at the buzzer giving Milton a 21-13 halftime lead.
“Madison, this is her second consistent game in a row,” Roose said. “She’s been really building her confidence, and that’s going to be really important. We know that teams are going to worry about Kristen, and it’s nice to know that we have Madison who’s willing to step up and Rachel Thompson, who played with so much more confidence tonight. She stepped up tonight and was able to control the glass, and she was looking to score more, which is something I’ve stressed to her since Tuesday night.”
The Bulldogs continued to pull away in the third, with a 3 by Dickison and a jumper by Thompson giving them a 31-17 lead before the Indians were able to close to within 31-21 heading into the fourth. And though Carlisle was able to hang around for the first four minutes, Milton-Union put it away from the line late.
Dickison led the way with 24 points, seven rebounds and four steals, going 11 for 14 from the free throw line in the game. Jones added 10 points and eight rebounds, Thompson finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and two assists, Morgan Grudich scored five points, Olivia Brown had two points and seven rebounds and Regan Robinson had two points.
Abby Goodpastor hit two of the Indians’ six 3s on the night and led Carlisle with eight points. Dingee had seven points and 10 rebounds, Caitlyn Stewart had six points, Kaylee Lawson had five points and Emma Riley and Sidney Morris each had three points.
Last season, the Bulldogs and Indians split a pair of tight matchups, with Milton-Union winning 38-33 at home and falling 52-49 at Carlisle.
Milton-Union travels to Arcanum Saturday before another tough league test, hosting division rival and defending SWBL Buckeye champion Waynesville on Dec. 13.
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.