---- — By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
MILTON -- They call Milton's gym "The Jungle," and it's served the Black Panthers very well over the years.
For the Shikellamy girls on Tuesday, though, it was very much a house of horrors.
The Braves, playing with a share of the Heartland-II lead on the line, were thoroughly frustrated over the course of their 47-39 loss to division-leading Milton.
Shikellamy shot 35 percent from the floor and a costly 39 percent from the line, in addition to committing 21 turnovers and 24 fouls. The fouls sent three Braves starters to the bench long before game's end.
For its part, Milton played well defensively and did good work in the paint on both ends, creating close looks at the hoop and out-rebounding Shikellamy 42-26.
"Our defense had been pretty stout for the last seven, eight games," said Black Panthers coach Aaron Slusser. "What we told the girls (Monday), after we watched a lot film of Shik, was we've got to get back to playing better defense (because) we played very little defense (Saturday in a loss at Shamokin).
"We just got back to the way we've been playing."
The Braves had to work hard for shots and rarely found any offensive rhythm.
In each half they had scoreless stretch of 5 minutes, 24 seconds that spanned two quarters. They trailed only 14-11 when they ended the first drought, but the margin was 39-27 when they halted the second midway through the fourth quarter.
Shikellamy -- which cut a 10-point halftime deficit to four points late in the third quarter -- got within 42-35 with 1:17 to play. Milton then scored a couple baskets in the middle to maintain its lead.
"It was pretty intense," said Milton senior Emily Baker. "Our goal was to keeping going hard. We came out a little weak in the second half, but we were going pretty strong after a while. We were controlling the boards and getting the fouls and we were doing decent with our foul shots."
Baker scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Classmate Katelyn Gensel had 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench, including 11 and 5 in the fourth quarter.
Milton (8-6) remained in a three-way tie atop HAC-II with Danville and Shamokin at 6-2. Shikellamy, which was led by seniors Alexis Angstadt (16 points) and Cory Yerger (12), fell off the leaders' pace at 4-3 (9-5 overall).
The Black Panthers led 8-3 with three minutes left in the first quarter, and Baker had six of the points on easy put-ins. The Braves pulled within a point in a minute later on two Yerger buckets. They went ahead on an Angstadt layup as Milton ended the period with three scoreless minutes.
Angstadt's go-ahead hoop with 50 seconds left in the first marked the start of the 5-plus-minute drought that ended when she drove the left baseline at the 3:26 mark of the second. Rather than provide the spark the Braves needed, Milton closed the half with a 9-2 run. Karissa Brown answered Angstadt's basket with the game's only 3-pointer, and Baker added three points, exceeding her scoring average (10.0 ppg.) with 11 at halftime. The Panthers led 23-13.
"It just developed by the way they were playing defense," she said. "They just lost track of me and I'd sneak down there and they'd dish it to me. We had a lot of great looks inside."
In the second quarter alone, Shikellamy shot 2-for-12, was out-rebounded 15-7 and committed nine fouls. By the 3:30 mark of the third, in the midst of their comeback, three Braves starters had four fouls, including Yerger, who scored eight points in the period.
Two Yerger free throws got Shik within 28-24, but a minute later the Braves' second scoreless stretch started and Milton went on a 11-0 run. Yerger, Kierra Smith and Bernadette Chaney fouled out a little more than 3 minutes apart in the fourth quarter.
"Give them credit," Slusser said of the Braves, which beat Milton 41-37 on Dec. 19. "They keep pushing; they don't stop."