Tiger boys’ basketball rallies to win (another) close game

MIDDLEBURY — Fans of the Middlebury Union High School boys’ basketball team aren’t complaining, for sure. After all, the Tigers are 10-2 after totaling 17 victories the past three winters combined.
But maybe the Tigers could make it a little easier on their family members and friends.
After completing a rally from 13 points down vs. visiting Milton early in Friday’s fourth quarter to win, 56-53, the Tigers have now earned eight of of those 10 victories by seven points or fewer — including one in overtime, another by one point, and the past two by three points.
TIGER SENIOR PARKER Beatty was head and shoulders above the opponents, with a dominating performance in Middlebury’s come-from-behind victory over visiting Milton on Friday. The forward had 14 points, 18 rebounds, five blocks, three assists and three steals.
Independent photo/Steve James
After Friday’s dramatic comeback against a solid 9-4 Milton squad, first-year Coach John Howe, looking like he had just played 32 minutes, said the Tigers have character. 
“This is the most impressive group of young men that I have ever coached as far as their determination, their hard work. They never give up. The back of their T-shirts say, ‘It’s about effort,’ and they understand that,” Howe said. “If you’re always fighting for what you want, sports, school, it doesn’t matter, it will work out in your favor, and tonight is proof.”
Junior Tyler Buxton, who scored 11 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth-quarter, cited another factor. He said the Tigers many seasons as a team, from elementary school on up, is paying off — they know each other’s strengths and can anticipate each other’s moves.
“We’ve been playing together with each other since we were all kids, and we just have great chemistry,” said Buxton, who shrugged off game-long foul trouble to add 10 rebounds and four steals.
The Tigers struggled for three quarters offensively against the taller and equally athletic Yellowjackets, who played an aggressive zone that both took away lanes to the basket and challenged the MUHS shooters.
MIDDLEBURY GAURD ZACHARY Dunn is surrounded by giant Milton forwards, but like the rest of the Tigers, he played big on Friday to help the home team overcome a 12-point deficit and pull off an unlikely victory.
Independent photo/Steve James
Still, the Tiger defenders kept Milton and senior 1,000-point scorer Ian Jennings in check, too. Playing mostly man-to-man defense on Jennings, with Buxton and senior Parker Beatty sharing the assignment, MUHS stayed in the game and held Jennings to 11 points.
The teams were tied midway through the third period and trading hoops when the Tigers went cold, and the Yellowjackets went on a 10-0 run over the middle three minutes.
Milton’s Kyle Brown (17 points), Jennings, Deven Creamer (14) and Sam Patterson all did damage in the quarter, which ended with Milton up by 41-31.
Buxton watched much of it from the bench in foul trouble. He admitted afterward to seeds of doubt at that point, but also described what happened next.
“When we were down by 10 and I was on the bench with four fouls, I was, like, this is going to be a doozy. This might not be too great,” Buxton said. “But we came back in and fired up and scored a couple fast-break layups in a row, and that gave us the momentum to just win it.”
TIGER SENIOR PARKER Beatty shows his speed and fancy footwork to get past the Milton defense in Friday’s come-from-behind win by Middlebury.
Independent photo/Steve James
But first it got worse. Creamer drilled a corner three to open the fourth quarter, and it was 44-31. And the Tigers, with Buxton one of several Tigers in foul trouble in a whistle-filled evening, had to use a defense Howe said they had just started practicing.
Howe put them in a zone with two Tigers under the basket and three out top, and asked the players out top to trap ballhandlers on the sideline. It worked for two reasons: Beatty, under the basket, grabbed almost every rebound, and Buxton and seniors Zach Dunn (four steals) and Tim Goettelmann began to force Yellowjacket turnovers.
And those big transition layups Buxton mentioned? Those were his, with Dunn assisting and a big Friday night crowd making noise and helping the Tigers out.
Buxton gave the fans some of the credit.
“It’s amazing. It gets us hyped, and it just gives us momentum. If we hit a shot and hear the uproar, we’re ready to make another,” he said.
Senior Spencer Cadoret, a three-point specialist, also found the range, He drilled two in the quarter, one of which finally tied the game and sparked a huge reaction, especially in the student section.
JUNIOR FORWARD TYLER Buxton dribbles around the Milton defense in front of a packed crowd at the Middlebury Union High School gym on his way to two of his team-high 23 points in Friday’s Tiger win. 
Independent photo/Steve James
With a minute to go, Buxton fed Beatty in the left post, and he laid it in to make it 52-50 and break the final tie. The Tigers hit four free throws as time wound down and then survived Creamer’s desperation heave at the buzzer.
Beatty contributed 14 points, 18 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals. Zach Dunn finished with five assists, the majority in the fourth quarter, and Cadoret scored 11. Junior Jeffrey Lokatys and sophomores Mason Kauffman, Wesley Hirdler, Gabe Dunn and Drew Gill also contributed.
Howe praised all the Tigers for their effort and poise, especially in running a new defense in such a pivotal stretch and surviving their foul trouble.
“I’m blown away at how hard they fought despite what I thought was a difficult game to play,” he said.    

Share this story:

More News

Bernard D. Kimball, 76, of Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — Bernard D. Kimball, 76, passed away in Bennington Hospital on Jan. 10, 2023. … (read more)

News Uncategorized

Fresh Air Fund youths returning to county

The Fresh Air Fund, initiated in 1877 to give kids from New York City the opportunity to e … (read more)

Obituaries Uncategorized

Mark A. Nelson of Bristol

BRISTOL — A memorial service for Mark A. Nelson of Bristol will be held 1 p.m. on Saturday … (read more)

Share this story: