By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG -- Milton's turnaround this season into the front runner in the Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I has been forged on its ability to gets it opponents to play its style of play.
For one half against Lewisburg on Wednesday night, the Black Panthers were successful in doing that to the Green Dragons, holding them to 10 points and taking a lead into halftime.
However, Lewisburg found its offense in the second half as Maria Kelleher scored all 17 of her points after halftime to help the Green Dragons to a 41-34 victory over the Black Panthers in a HAC crossover game at Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School.
"We need to be more patient on offense (in the second half)," Lewisburg coach Phil Stamm said. "Offense is a matter of confidence sometimes as well and it helped when some of our shots started going in."
As one would expect between two of the top teams in the HAC, the game was nip-and-tuck throughout as Milton's biggest lead was five, while the Green Dragons' didn't build their largest lead (nine) until late in the fourth quarter.
Lewisburg (14-5) led 7-4 after one quarter, but suffered through a 1-of-15 second quarter from the floor. The Green Dragons led 9-8 after their lone field goal of the second quarter, but the Black Panthers got back-to-back buckets late in the first half by Linea Brouse and Mackenna Miller to open up a 15-10 lead at the break.
The Green Dragons doubled their field goal output from the second quarter early in the third quarter when Kasey Conrad had back-to-back buckets and a Kelleher three-point play with 5:31 left in the third tied the game at 17-17.
Milton still led by a point late in the third when Kelleher canned a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left and Miranda Gajda added a 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer to turn a one-point deficit into a four-point lead heading to the fourth.
"Miranda's shot was huge," Stamm said. "That gave us a lift heading to the fourth quarter."
Milton (12-8) would cut the lead to one early in the fourth quarter when Emily Baker converted a three-point play with 5:08 left in the contest, but the Black Panthers were hindered by their inability to hit foul shots (3-of-7 in the fourth, 7-of-17 for the game).
"Foul shots and missed layups were huge (for us)," Milton coach Aaron Slusser said. "We gave up nine offensive boards in the first half, but (Lewisburg) didn't score on any of them, but in the second half it really hurt us. Take away foul shots; we missed at least 10 layups. That's not going to get it done against a good team like Lewisburg."
Meanwhile, Lois Lesher and Kelleher converted on buckets on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to 35-30. The Green Dragons then converted six-of-eight foul shots down the stretch to clinch the game.
Kelleher also had a team-high nine rebounds for Lewisburg. Kasey Conrad finished with 10 points for the Green Dragons.
Baker led the way for the Black Panthers with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Mackenna Miller added six points, six steals and three assists.