By Jack Herron // Special to Scrimmageplay.com
The Miller School boys baketball team played a tough and grueling schedule for one reason this season — to prepare them for a state championship run. Saturday night, they got their shot for the first time since 2019 in their matchup against Highland School in the D-II State Championship at Virginia State University.
Miller got off to a great start, going up 8-0 in the first few minutes working the ball inside and getting some early three-pointers to go down.
Highland made some shots late in the first quarter, but Miller headed into the second quarter with a 15-9 lead and were riding high.
In the second quarter, Highland School came alive, with some big shots from their sixth man Chancellor Perkins leading the way. However, Miller continued to battle using their size to challenge shots at the rim and hit the offensive glass for extra possessions.
The grit it out style both teams were playing seemed to be going in Miller’s favor, until a late run by Highland in the second quarter. The teams headed into halftime all tied up at 25, with a classic looking like it was underway.
When the teams came out of the locker room, it was Highland who continued with the momentum as they ramped up the defense and forced Miller into a number of turnovers. The Mavericks struggled to get into a flow offensively, as Highland not only forced turnovers that led to easy points in transition but also forced them into tough shots.
Senior Austin Ball converted a bucket at the rim with 1:17 left, and that was the final score of the quarter which saw Miller only score seven points in the third and they were looking at a 37-32 deficit going into the fourth.
The fourth quarter saw the script flip, as it was Miller who changed up defenses and made adjustments on the offensive end. They went to a diamond press that confused Highland, forcing them into a number of turnovers, and Miller decided to go inside and use their size to their advantage.
They switched up their formula which usually has the ultra skilled Eli DeLaurier initiating the offense at the top of the key, and instead starting running plays to clear out the paint and post up the 6’8” forward. The results were a valiant comeback that was almost one for the ages.
The Mavericks gave up a quick bucket in the first possession of the fourth quarter, and after that they were able to hold Highland to just three points for the rest of the game. DeLaurier, who struggled for most of the game after the first quarter, started to get one-on-one looks in the paint and got his way to the free throw line and got easy looks in the paint, scoring all 6 of their points in the third quarter.
In a game that was a chess match between coaches and players, it was a wild sequence that eventually sealed Miller’s fate. With around 40 seconds to play, the Mavericks went inside to DeLaurier who missed a jump hook. Will Bonde secured an offensive rebound and fed Jordan Horne, who missed a follow up attempt. Bonde secured another rebound, and missed another attempt, to which he got his own rebound and missed yet another one.
The scrum for that rebound ended up out of bounds and referees awarded the ball back to Miller.
With 20 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, they inbounded the ball long to DeLaurier who handed it off to Horne, he spun through the lane and couldn’t get the contested layup to go. Ball had a chance with a tip and missed, and then Bonde got another rebound and couldn’t finish.
Seven attempts at the rim, and none of them fell, with no fouls called.
The Mavericks fouled a couple of times to send Chancellor Perkins to the line for a one-and-one, and he missed the front end. After all of that, the ball ends up in Jalen Dyer’s hands, and he side steps a defender, throws up a prayer from beyond half court, and it rims out as the buzzer expires, along with the Mavs season.
Miller fell 42-40 in the final. A heart breaking end to a magical season for Head Coach Jack Meriweather and his Miller School team, which features seven seniors on the roster. However, their continued fight and hard work through a grueling season will be something they remember forever.