Milford Mill coach Mike Silverman reached deep into his playbook for a defensive adjustment that helped the Millers turn around Friday night's game vs. Dunbar.
Silverman didn't like how often the Poets were getting shots on drives to the hoop, so he switched to the rarely-used 3-2 zone defense. That move paid off as the Millers limited No. 12 Dunbar to only three second-half baskets as No. 2 Milford Mill pulled away for a 56-44 victory in the 18th Annual Basketball Academy tournament at Morgan State.
Dunbar and Milford Mill played the first quarter at a dizzying pace, with the Poets taking an early 21-17 lead. Dunbar slowed in the second quarter and Milford Mill took a 28-27 halftime lead, despite losing top-scoring guard Justin Jenifer (11 points) to a sprained ankle with 3:41 left. Jenifer needed to be helped off the court and didn't return.
Dunbar kept getting good shots in the the third quarter, even though the Millers (9-2) led. That's when Silverman made the change.
“We wanted to slow them down,” he said. “They were beating us off the dribble a little too much. My guys did a good job.”
Milford Mill shut down the lane and forced Dunbar to take outside shots. The Poets couldn't get any quick runs like they had in the first quarter — and also weren't able to come up with offensive rebounds as often as before.
Dunbar scored a basket with 2:15 left in the first half and didn't get another until Justin McNair's lay-up with 6:15 left in the fourth quarter — a dry spell of exactly 10 minutes.
“We knew we had to close out on all shooters,” Millers forward Allen Costley said. “We came together and played harder as a unit.”
Silverman didn't think Jenifer's the injury was a serious one, though the guard was going to have his ankle checked at the hospital. But Costley said the Millers knew they needed to come together for Jenifer.
Dunbar had a few players always watching Costley in the first half and he scores only two points. He scored 11 in the second half.
Costley scored six in just over a minute to spark a 10-point run that put the Millers in command.
Dunbar turned up the defensive pressure after the Millers increased the lead to 47-31 early in that final quarter. The Poets cut the lead to eight twice, and Milford Mill had seven turnovers, but remained patient and pulled away in the final three minutes.
No. 2 Milford Mill 56, No. 12 Dunbar 44
M-Jenifer 11, Brown 10, Costley 13, Cooper 8, Alston 12, Charles 2. Totals: 19 12-13 56.
D- Hampton 12, Gibson 10, McNair 6, Tazewell 3, Buckhanon 6, Closson 4, Fields 2. Totals: 15 10-18 44. Half: M, 28-27.