While disappointment reigned on the girls' side, there was joy on the boys side of the Miller benches last night in the Class 2A basketball sectionals at Willard. Undefeated Sparta, now 28-0, knocked off the Miller Lady Cardinals, 75-68, while the Miller boys upset Clever, the state's ninth-ranked team, 52-40.
Class 2A Girls
Hannah Wilkerson, premier scorer for the Miller Lady Cardinals, did all she could, but it wasn't quite enough in the girls game. Wilkerson hit 12-of-22 shots from the field and eight-of-nine charity tosses for a game-high 35 points but still the Miller girls fell to the state's second-ranked team.
Sparta's Lady Trojans got off to a good start, outscoring Miller by identical 18-15 scores in the first two stanzas for a 36-30 lead by intermission.
In the second half, Sparta continued to surge and built a 63-49 advantage with slightly less than four minutes left to play. But then the Lady Cardinals fought back.
Taking advantage of Sparta's inability to score with consistency from the free throw line, Miller closed the gap to just 4 points, 68-64, with a minute remaining after a trey by Wilkerson, but that was a close as Miller could get. The Lady Trojans extended the lead back to 10 points and finished with the 7-point victory.
Tashina Tennis was a force for Sparta, tossing in 26 points, but she had plenty of help. Brooke Stevens had 19 points and Kayla Coffer added 16 points.
For Miller, Wilkerson's 35 points was supported by 14 points from Brooke Hill.
Class 2A Boys
Grabbing control in the fourth quarter, the Miller boys stunned Clever with a barrage of points, primarily from the free throw line, and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
In the early going it was all Clever, as that team took a 12-6 first quarter lead. Clever still had the upper hand, 33-31, after three quarters but then foul trouble began to hurt that team. The Cardinals made 14-of-20 free throws in the final period to outpoint Clever, 21-7, and pull away for the victory.
Balanced scoring was another key for the Miller quintet. Ryan Morris and Tyler Abma each had 14 points, and Justin Jack added 11 points.
Jeremy Dresslaer tallied 12 points for Clever.
Miller, sporting a 23-4 record, will now take on Adrian at 1 p.m. Saturday in the state quarterfinals at Hammons Center in Springfield.