Big Reds end conference schedule with loss to Grosse Ile on Senior Night

Heading into Friday night’s contest with the Grosse Ile Red Devils, the Milan Big Reds were aware of two things.

Jarius Hamilton (23) drives for a layup in the first half of Milan's 61-56 loss to Grosse Ile on Friday night. The senior forward led the Big Reds with 18 points.

Jarius Hamilton (23) drives for a layup in the first half of Milan’s 61-56 loss to Grosse Ile on Friday night. The senior forward led the Big Reds with 18 points.

First, the Red Devils would be hungry for a win after nearly coming back against Milan in their last matchup – eventually losing by two points on Jan. 31; second, Grosse Ile would be emphasizing three-point shots on offense.

The Red Devils downed 7 treys en route to a 61-56 victory, which included a game-high 25 points from Justin Moores.

In this battle, it would be Milan who came back from a deficit, which reached a high of seven points midway through the 3rd quarter. Over the final 3:54 of the frame, which was kick-started by a Trevor Ballard three-pointer, the Big Reds outscored Grosse Ile 11-5 and narrowed the visitors’ lead to 46-44.

Milan briefly took the lead in the 4th, scoring the quarter’s first 4 points by way of a Kenari Moore bucket off a steal, and a Jarius Hamilton driving layup. Yet after the Red Devils tied the game at 48 a short time later, the momentum swung their way for the remainder of the contest.

The result didn’t affect the conference standings, as Milan (11-3 Huron League) and Grosse Ile (10-4) were in 2nd and 3rd place regardless of the outcome, but for Red Devils coach Mohamed Elhaj, the win meant something.

“It’s a great win,” he said. “(Milan’s) a great team. We lost a close one at our house, and I told (my players) it’s not going to be easy, that they’re not going to just give (the win) to us. We came out and played great defense, we played as a team offensively, and we got the win.”

Elhaj had high praise for his team, complimenting several players, including Moores, Matthew Frost – who scored 23 in the previous matchup and netted 15 on Friday – and his backup guards. “Moores is a hell of a shooter,” Elhaj said. “I told him just to let it fly. As long as we could play defense, he’d be alright. Same with Frost.

“(Frost) got in foul trouble the first half, and we had to sit him out in the second quarter. Our backup guards did a great job keeping the game under control. In the second half, Frost was ready to go and he did a great job.”

On the other side, Milan head coach Chris Pope was disappointed with the final result. “We just didn’t play well enough and it’s simple as that,” he said. “They played better than us and wanted (the win) more than us. We didn’t play with enough energy and effort. We did a bad job defensively, giving up 61 points after playing so well (the last few games).

“We’d get a stop and then they’d get a layup. We’d miss an assignment and they hit a three. The little things like that add up, and you can’t keep digging yourself out of those holes when they’re that deep. It was not a good loss, and that’s on me.”

The Big Reds were led in scoring by Hamilton, who scored 18 points. Jeremy Morgan added 12 for Milan, while Ballard had 8.

The JV Big Reds also lost to Grosse Ile on Friday. Their 47-44 loss drops their overall record to 8-10, while their Huron League record slips to 8-6.

Milan (11-7 overall) plays their final regular season home game on Monday against Arbor Prep (8-9). This will be the first-ever matchup between the two teams. The Gators feature former Milan standout Garrett Gardette on their roster.

Monday’s contest is set for a 7 p.m. start.

 

Big Reds survive Flat Rock 3rd quarter rally, defeat Rams 48-43

Tuesday night’s matchup between the Flat Rock Rams and Milan Big Reds unexpectedly came down to the game’s final minutes.

Maxwell Milliken (right) prepares to shoot the ball in the first quarter of Milan's 48-43 win over Flat Rock on Tuesday night.

Maxwell Milliken (right) prepares to shoot the ball in the first quarter of Milan’s 48-43 win over Flat Rock on Tuesday night.

What had been a 29-23 halftime lead for the home Big Reds turned into a 38-33 deficit at the end of the 3rd quarter, and it took free throw shooting in the 4th to bring Milan back to life. Rallying from contributions by Maxwell Milliken and Trevor Ballard, the Big Reds came back to defeat Flat Rock 48-43.

The Rams’ third quarter success began with a 9-0 run. “We’re not very patient offensively,” Flat Rock head coach Dave Bogataj said. “When we actually spread the floor and burst the ball once, then we get some better looks. I think we did that.”

Unfortunately for Bogataj’s team, who has lost 11 straight contests after starting the season 4-3, the tide turned when the final period began. “We’ve been very inconsistent all year ending games,” he said. “We’ll play a good four minutes and then a horrible four minutes. Tonight, I actually thought we played a complete game. (Milan) made runs and made shots, but I thought we competed the whole time, and I’m happy about it.”

After a free throw by the Rams’ Connor Neal put the game at 41-36 with 6:04 remaining in the 4th, with Flat Rock still clinging to the lead, Milliken turned the tide. The senior forward scored six of Milan’s next eight points, with his contributions putting up Milan 44-41. Flat Rock also failed to score until Neal netted two more free throws with 36 seconds left, his team trailing 46-43 at the time.

“(Maxwell) played huge in that fourth quarter,” Milan head coach Chris Pope said. “We needed a lift inside, and Max provided that. He’s learning and has gotten better over the year, seeing where he fits in at and what his skill set is. He cleaned the glass in the fourth.”

Pope was not without frustrations, however, as he felt the Big Reds came out flat despite scoring 15 points in the opening quarter. He also pulled his starters in the 3rd, annoyed with his team’s play and starters being in foul trouble. The starting five was put back in the game with 6:46 left in the 4th, and Kenari Moore capitalized on the move by hitting a three-pointer 32 seconds later.

Trevor Ballard (left) pump-fakes in the first quarter of Milan's win over Flat Rock on Tuesday. Ballard led the contest in scoring with 15 points.

Trevor Ballard (left) pump-fakes in the first quarter of Milan’s win over Flat Rock on Tuesday. Ballard led the contest in scoring with 15 points.

“We came out sloppy (and) flat,” he said. “When we took the starters off the floor and put the five subs in, I think that was the message that needed to be sent – that Flat Rock was here and they’re serious. Give the kids that came out credit – the message hit home. We came back and we were able to finish it out.

“In that third quarter, we only scored four points. We weren’t sharing the basketball and didn’t play enough defense. We can’t have those flat minutes. But overall, a win’s a win.”

Ballard led the game in scoring, as the junior guard netted 15 points. Teammates Jeremy Morgan and Moore added 9 and 8 respectively. Neal, Noah Zarbaugh and Seth Bogataj scored 10 points each for the Rams.

With SMCC defeating New Boston Huron 55-48 on Tuesday, the Falcons improved to 13-0 in the Huron League conference standings and clinched their second consecutive conference title; the Big Reds – who improved to 11-2 in conference play with their win over Flat Rock – have sewn up second place with one conference game remaining. Thus far, the two losses in the Huron League for the Big Reds were to SMCC.

“The first time we played SMCC, it wasn’t pretty,” Pope said. “The second time we played them, my kids gave me everything they had. So for us to come in second place and (play) like we did in that second game (a 51-41 loss on Feb. 3), I’m satisfied with that. As long as we can take care of the rest of our games in the league, we’ve done our job.

“We’re 11-3 since the start of the new year. I told the kids that’s something they can be proud of. All we want to do is try and play our best basketball at the end of the year.”

The JV Big Reds also won their contest against Flat Rock on Tuesday; the 38-33 win is Milan’s fifth in a row. The Big Reds – who won their matchup with Riverview last Friday 63-39 – are now 8-9 overall and 8-5 in the Huron League.

Milan’s varsity squad (11-6, 11-2 Huron League) wraps up conference play with a matchup against Grosse Ile (11-7, 9-4 Huron League) on Friday night. Milan will be celebrating Senior Night and Champions Night at the contest. Senior basketball players and cheerleaders are going to be recognized between the JV and varsity games, while champions from other sports in the past school year will be recognized at halftime of the varsity game.

Friday’s game is set for a 7 p.m. start.

 

 

Milan bests Riverview in Friday showdown

It wasn’t quite the 30-point average that Milan had been victorious by over their last three games, but the Big Reds kept their winning streak alive on Friday night.

Kenari Moore (32) scored four points in Milan's 58-49 win over Riverview on Friday night. Moore was involved in a key play with 1:09 left in the game, which included a steal and 2 free throws by the senior guard. (File photo)

Kenari Moore (32) scored four points in Milan’s 58-49 win over Riverview on Friday night. Moore was involved in a key play with 1:09 left in the game, which included a steal and layup by the senior guard. (File photo)

Playing the last road game before a three-game homestand that begins next week, Milan defeated Riverview 58-49.

The contest came down to the wire in the 4th quarter. The Big Reds – who led by 14 at the end of the 3rd – had the lead cut to 52-49 after a 3-pointer by Kaleb Russell with 1:49 to go.

The saving grace came 40 seconds later, when Kenari Moore stole the ball on an ensuing Pirate possession and made a layup to bring the lead back to five.

“We found a way to win,” Big Reds head coach Chris Pope said. “We didn’t play our best game of the year. We played sloppy and (had a lot of) turnovers. We did have contributions from a lot of people (though), and that helped.”

Pope wasn’t fazed by Riverview’s comeback attempt. “I wasn’t nervous,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us having to close out and play better defense.”

Milan was 4-for-11 from the free throw line in the 4th, which included misses from Jeremy Morgan and Dante Hurst on 1-and-1’s with roughly 2:50 left in the game. “Us missing the front end of 1-and-1’s hurt,” Pope said. “The free throws were the most disappointing thing, because if we made those free throws, it would have iced the game up.”

Jeremy Morgan (10) led Milan in scoring on Friday, netting 13 points. (File photo)

Jeremy Morgan (10) led Milan in scoring on Friday, netting 13 points. (File photo)

Pope was encouraged by Moore’s key play in the game’s final minute. “He’s been our defensive ace,” the third-year head coach said of the senior guard. “I put him on everybody’s best player and ask him to play good defense. He’s done an excellent job, and to see him get that steal and the layup … yeah, that was a big play for us.”

Seven Big Reds scored in the contest, three of whom were in double digits. Morgan led the group with 13, followed by Jarius Hamilton netting 12 and Trevor Ballard adding 11. Freshman Tristen Hines, normally one of the team’s defensive specialists, contributed a career-high 9 points.

Riverview was led by Hunter Glime, who scored a game-high 16.

With Friday’s win, the Big Reds clinched at least a share of 2nd place in the Huron League conference. With two games remaining, SMCC (12-0) currently is atop the standings, while Grosse Ile is in third place with an 8-4 record.

The Big Reds (10-6, 10-2 Huron League) begin the homestand on Tuesday, taking on Flat Rock (4-13, 2-10 Huron League). Milan previously defeated the Rams on Jan. 27, winning that matchup by 30 points.

Tuesday’s contest is set for a 7 p.m. start.

Big Reds cruise in win over New Boston Huron

Given that Tuesday was the unofficial holiday of Valentine’s Day, Milan Big Reds head coach Chris Pope had to love his team’s performance against the New Boston Huron Chiefs.

A strong showing in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of the contest paved the way toward a Milan 70-48 win over Huron.

Jarius Hamilton (right) scored 17 points in Milan's 70-48 victory over New Boston Huron on Tuesday night. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Jarius Hamilton (right) scored 17 points in Milan’s 70-48 victory over New Boston Huron on Tuesday night. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Jarius Hamilton tied the game at 15 with 7:48 to go in the 2nd, after which the Big Reds outscored the Chiefs 24-7 to take a 39-22 lead at the half.

With 1:24 remaining in the 3rd, Pope pulled his starters. The lead reached a high of 32 points at the end of the period.

In the two stanzas, Milan forced 15 Chief turnovers, while turning the ball over themselves just three times.

Ballard led the visitors with 22 points, while Hamilton scored 17. Other contributors were Jeremy Morgan (9 points), Kenari Moore (8) and Dante Hurst (7). Huron was led by Phillip Martin, who scored 13.

“We played very well from the 2nd quarter on,” Pope said. “We scored 26 points in the 2nd quarter (and) 25 in the 3rd after a slow start. Give the kids credit, because they took care of business in the second half.

Trevor Ballard (0) led Milan with 22 points in Tuesday's win over New Boston Huron. (File photo)

Trevor Ballard (0) led Milan with 22 points in Tuesday’s win over New Boston Huron. (File photo)

“The plan going in was that we wanted to create some turnovers, get some easy baskets, and find other ways to score instead of being bogged down in a half-court offense.”

The two-stanza rally came after Huron grabbed a brief lead in the first quarter. With 31 seconds left in the frame, a Logan Molnar bucket put the Chiefs up 15-13.

“We came out slow,” Pope said. “Then we made an adjustment. Jarius got in the game and gave us a spark.”

Milan’s JV team also defeated Huron; the 55-51 win – their third win in a row – brings their overall record to 6-9, while their conference record is now 6-5.

The Big Reds’ varsity team (9-6, 9-2 Huron League) travels to Riverview (4-12, 3-8 Huron League) on Friday. Milan previously defeated the Pirates 61-49 on Jan. 24, when the two teams played at Milan’s gym. Friday’s contest is set for a 7 p.m. start.

 

Big Red offense comes through again in 65-35 victory over Airport

It didn’t take long on Friday night to find out how the game between the Airport Jets and Milan Big Reds was going to go.

Trevor Ballard (right) scored 20 points in Milan's 65-35 win over Airport on Friday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Trevor Ballard (right) scored 20 points in Milan’s 65-35 win over Airport on Friday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The Big Reds used a strong first quarter, which saw them outscore the Jets 23-4, en route to a 65-35 win over their Huron League rival.

For the second straight contest, Trevor Ballard started out hot; the junior guard netted 12 of his game-high 20 points in the opening eight minutes.

Airport had a brief run – taking a 29-9 deficit with roughly two-and-a-half minutes to go in the second stanza to 35-23 at the half – but the Big Red momentum was too much for the visitors.

“Give Milan credit,” Jets head coach Ryan Marino said. “They had it going tonight. They made some shots early, and I thought our guys didn’t do a good job of fighting back. (Milan) took the game out of our hands in the first 2 minutes.

Kenari Moore (32) drives for a dunk in Milan's win over Airport. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Kenari Moore (32) drives for a dunk in Milan’s win over Airport. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

“We go through our offensive droughts, and they normally kill us. Milan’s got too much offensive firepower. We told (our players) that coming in – that if they weren’t locked in defensively, it was going to be tough.”

Milan head coach Chris Pope was proud of his team’s effort. “The way we’ve been playing the last couple games (is because) we’ve gotten off to a great start,” he said. “It’s just another credit to Trevor’s effort, trying to get us off to a great start and being a team leader. I give the kid credit tonight because he came out and he was on fire.

“We’ve been playing better defense in the first quarter (as well), and we’ve had better starts because of that.”

In addition to Ballard’s 20 points, the Big Reds had contributions from Jeremy Morgan and Jarius Hamilton. The duo each scored 12. Casey Hammar led Airport with 11 points, while teammate Dayton Westaway had 10.

The JV Big Reds also won their contest against the Jets. The 54-52 victory improves their overall record to 5-9, while their Huron League conference record moves to 5-5.

Kyle Carey and Bryan Watkins (center and right) pose with Milan athletic director Dave Kaiser after each winning $500 as part of the half-court shootout promotion at halftime. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Kyle Carey and Bryan Watkins (center and right) pose with Milan athletic director Dave Kaiser after each winning $500 as part of the half-court shootout promotion at halftime. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The crowd at the varsity game was treated to an entertaining halftime competition, as two Milan High students had chances to win $500 if they made a shot from half-court; Bryan Watkins made his on his second attempt, while junior varsity basketball player Kyle Carey made his on the first try. Milan High School received two $1,000 donations from American 1 Credit Union as part of the promotion.

Milan (8-6, 8-2 Huron League) is on the road in both games next week. The road trip begins at New Boston Huron (6-8, 4-6 Huron League) on Tuesday. The game is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Fiery Milan offense leads the way in win over Jefferson

It felt good to be home for the Milan Big Reds on Tuesday night. Milan returned to their floor for the first time since Jan. 20, and wasted little time in making themselves feel comfortable. The Big Red offense carried them to victory over Monroe Jefferson, leading to a 76-37 defeat of the Bears.

Maxwell Milliken (left) battles for a shot attempt in the 2nd quarter of Milan's 76-37 win over Jefferson on Tuesday night. Milliken had 16 points in the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Maxwell Milliken (left) battles for a shot attempt in the 2nd quarter of Milan’s 76-37 win over Jefferson on Tuesday night. Milliken had 16 points in the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Trevor Ballard and Maxwell Milliken set the tone early, scoring 17 of Milan’s 22 first-quarter points. The junior guard netted 11 of his game-high 21 points in the frame, while the senior forward scored 6 of his 16 in the opening stanza.

The momentum was maintained throughout the night, as the lead at the end of the quarters grew; Milan led 22-7 after the first, 38-18 at the half, and 58-27 after three periods.

For the Big Reds, who suffered a tough loss to SMCC last Friday, the redemption felt good to the squad. “We played a complete game tonight,” head coach Chris Pope said. “We held (Jefferson) under 40 points tonight, which was our goal. We shared the basketball.”

Eight Milan players scored in the contest; other contributors for the Big Reds included Jarius Hamilton – who scored 15 points – and Jeremy Morgan, who had 8. Jefferson was led by Trent Sandiefer, who notched 9.

Pope sees no ill effects from Friday’s 10-point loss, which saw the conference standings gap increase to two games. “We played a great game on Friday and we just came up on the wrong end,” he said. “There’s nothing to hang our heads on (from then). We just need to keep pushing, and (tonight) was a step in the right direction.”

Bears head coach Grant Hesson was disappointed with his team’s performance. “Scoring hurts, and we gave up too (many) transition (points),” he said. “We had too many turnovers that led to easy shots (for Milan). Ballard was a part of their gameplan, and he was hitting shots. He got them ahead early and it just kept us down the whole game.

“We’ll play a good quarter or so, but if we don’t play good defense the whole game, we don’t score well enough to stop (teams). That was pretty much the problem, that we didn’t stop them early. When our offense sputtered, it was too hard to come back.”

Despite the losing skid, Hesson isn’t worried about his team. “We’ve got a good group of kids that will keep fighting to play hard,” he said. “We’ll find a way to get better.”

The Big Red JV squad also defeated Jefferson. Their 68-27 victory improves their record to 4-9 overall and 4-5 in conference play.

Milan’s varsity team (7-6, 7-2 Huron League) squares off against Carleton Airport (6-8, 4-5 Huron League) in their next contest on Friday, another home game at The Pit. The match is set for a 7 p.m. start.

Big Reds come up short in battle with SMCC

It was 16 degrees outside the high school that houses Brother Gerontius Memorial Gym on Friday night, but inside, things were a little hotter.

Trevor Ballard (0) shoots the ball in the 2nd half of Milan's 51-41 loss to SMCC on Friday night. The junior guard led the Big Reds with 22 points.

Trevor Ballard (with ball) attempts a shot in the 2nd half of Milan’s 51-41 loss to SMCC on Friday night. The junior guard led the Big Reds with 22 points.

For three quarters, the Milan Big Reds kept their Huron League rival, St. Mary Catholic Central, on their toes. Unfortunately for the visitors, the home Falcons going 13-for-17 at the free throw line in the 4th quarter played a key role in an SMCC 51-41 victory.

Over the opening 24 minutes, Milan never trailed by more than four. The game was tied at five different points, including being squared up at 18 at halftime, and again at 32 after the third frame.

“I can’t fault my kids,” Big Reds head coach Chris Pope said. “They gave me everything they had. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but boy, did we fight. I applaud our effort.”

Milan briefly held the lead in the 3rd quarter, gaining a three-point edge on a stanza-opening trey by Trevor Ballard. They later held a two-point lead with 5:20 left in the frame. The Big Reds never re-gained an edge after that point.

“We had mental breakdowns, fatigue, and some bad shot selections (in the 4th),” Pope said. “We slipped on a couple things, and SMCC took advantage of it. Their best ballplayers stepped up and made plays for them.”

The third-year coach was encouraged by his team’s effort in the contest. “We’ve gotten better step by step (since the last game we played against SMCC), and tonight proved that we have made strides to get better,” he said. “Collectively, we played great; Trevor, Jeremy (Morgan) and Maxwell (Milliken) all had good games. What more could I ask for out of these kids – going into the fourth quarter, a game that close?

Jeremy Morgan dunks in the 2nd half of Milan's game against SMCC on Friday. He finished the game with 11 points.

Jeremy Morgan dunks in the 2nd half of Milan’s game against SMCC on Friday. He finished the game with 11 points.

“I know we lost by 10, but still … compared to where we were the first game? We’re leaps and bounds (from that).”

Ballard led all scorers with 22 points, while Morgan added 11 to Milan’s cause.

Nick Welch – the Falcons’ 6-foot-7 hybrid who scored 21 points in the last contest between the two squads – was 10-for-14 from the charity stripe in the final stanza and scored a team-high 18 points on Friday. Hunter Kegley contributed 12 for the home team, while Wyatt O’Brien notched 10.

“Nick’s a great player and took control when he had to,” SMCC head coach Randy Windham said. “Hunter made a couple big threes and didn’t play like a sophomore. Wyatt really managed the defense for us.

“We made some plays and fought through some things. Offensively, we’ve been scoring quite a bit, and our defense was solid.”

Windham, who is good friends with Pope off the court, was complimentary of Milan’s play. “They played well, they played hard, they’re well-coached and did a great job,” he said. “(The game) could have gone either way.”

The Big Reds fell to 6-6 overall and 6-2 in conference play with Friday’s loss, while SMCC vaulted to 12-0 overall and 8-0 in the conference. Despite the two-game gap in the standings, Pope is not discouraged. “We’ve got to worry about one game at a time,” he said. “(Jefferson) on Tuesday is who we have to worry about. I’m not looking ahead (in the schedule) or trying to predict.

“I’m not trying to get those two losses back. We’ve just got to take care of Milan.”

The Big Red JV squad lost their game to SMCC as well. Milan’s 49-21 loss drops their record to 3-9 overall and 3-5 in Huron League play.

The teams lace up again on Tuesday with a home game against Jefferson (4-8, 2-6 Huron League). The varsity game tips off at 7 p.m., with the JV game preceding at 5:30.