By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
MILTON -- Only 6 seconds remained on the scoreboard in overtime as Milton coach Steve DeLong called a timeout between Shikellamy free throws, trailing by just one. The five on the court for the Black Panthers knew that they wouldn't have a lot of time to get a play set and would have to hope for a good look.
C.J. Tyler sank his second free throw to make it a 2-point game, and Milton quickly inbounded the pass and tried to get something developed.
Michael Jacobs got the ball just a few feet from the arc and let go of what looked like a good 3-point shot that had everyone in the gym collectively gasping at the buzzer.
The shot came up just shy though as the Shikellamy bench and starters all jumped together in celebration on their end as the Braves defeated Milton inside "the Jungle" at Milton High School with a 59-57 overtime thriller.
The win had big implications for the District 4 Class AAA playoffs seeding, moving Shikellamy into the third spot and bumping Milton into the fourth. Danville is currently the No. 1 while Athens holds the No. 2 spot.
The Black Panthers (12-7, 9-3 HAC-I) didn't show any quit as they battled back from a 15-point deficit early in the second quarter to the Braves (12-6, 9-3 HAC-I).
"I'm really happy with how we fought back and the heart we showed. We've done that all year," Milton coach Steve DeLong said. "They hit us pretty hard. Ernie Tyler came out on fire and we didn't give up. We played hard enough and well enough to win after that first quarter, but just didn't go our way."
Tyler was on fire offensively for the Braves, scoring a career-high 32 points while also grabbing seven rebounds. The senior sank four 3-pointers and was 12 of 15 from the foul line. Early in the first half, Tyler was dangerous from outside the arc, but as Milton's defense switched to limit his outside game, Tyler started driving to the basket more. The senior also scored 20 of Shikellamy's 27 first-half points.
"That's what a good player does," DeLong said of Tyler's ability. "He recognizes what's being taken away and he counters it. That's kind of what he did all night."
In overtime, Milton led just once when Chad Diggan (12 points, six rebounds) scored with 3:16 to play and then sank the ensuing free throw to tie and take the lead at 54-53. The Braves scored roughly 20 seconds later and never relented the lead again.
Milton faced a double-digit deficit through nearly the whole second quarter and the entire third quarter. The Braves led by eight with 5:55 to play until Milton went on a 9-0 run to take a 47-46 lead when Logan Feltman hit a jumper with 3:03 to play.
It was Milton's first lead all game. Jacobs (14 points, five boards) then scored on a layup the following possession to put Milton ahead by three.
Shikellamy went nearly four minutes between baskets from the floor in the fourth quarter before C.J. Tyler (12 points, four rebounds, four assists) scored on a layup and one to give Shikellamy a 51-49 lead. Travis Krall would send it into overtime with 52 seconds to play when he scored for the Black Panthers.
"You have to give Milton credit, they came back. We jumped on them pretty quick, pretty early. They did the little things," Shikellamy coach Tim Foor said. "They got the ball inside really well. They were patient.
"They worked their way back into the game. They took advantage of a weakness when Ryan (Kenney) goes out for us, we get pretty small, so they took advantage of that. I thought (Travis) Krall had a real good game for them."
Krall was solid for the Black Panthers, recording a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, including six offensive.
As a team, Milton out-rebounded the Braves, 30-22.
"Travis has struggled offensively from time to time this year, but tonight, once he got a feel for what he could do in there he pretty much dominated in there," DeLong said.