MONTPELIER — Ian Jennings scored 13 points and teammate Deven Creamer had 10 points as No. 7 Milton upset No. 2 Montpelier, 51-46, in Friday’s Division II boys basketball semifinal.
In a game that was all about rebounding, the Solons just couldn’t get their shots to fall when they mattered most. The Yellowjackets held off MHS in the final quarter to prevail. Montpelier was led by Leo Riby-Williams (18 points) and Jonah Cattaneo (16 points).
“It feels great to get out of here with a win,” Jennings said. “Montpelier is a good team that beat us earlier in the season — and we remembered them well. There was a nice crowd here tonight and they let us know it wasn’t going to be easy. It was really physical down low early on, but we managed to find some consistency in the second half and that allowed us to put some baskets together.”
The game was scoreless for the first four minutes as both teams were content to pummel each other in the paint instead of put points on the board.
Maybe it was nerves, or possibly adrenaline.
Milton’s Colin Mathis (eight points) finally hit a runner to give the Yellowjackets a 2-0 lead. On the next possession, Mathis grabbed a miss and put it back to make it 4-0. Jennings then let the play develop on the Yellowjackets’ next possession and found Creamer, who made it 6-0. That forced Montpelier coach Nick Foster to call a timeout.
Montpelier responded with a few baskets, but Milton’s Colby Ducharme (nine points) answered with an old-fashioned three-point play for a 10-5 lead after the first quarter.
“I thought we were really gutsy and were playing as hard as we could,” Foster said. “We set out to make it difficult for Jennings and I think we did a pretty good job of that. We came out well on the offensive glass but it’s too bad we couldn’t get enough shots to fall.”
Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter amid the heavyweight slugfest in the paint. Montpelier’s Riby-Williams finally grabbed a rebound and did it himself, going coast-to-coast and finishing with a Euro-step to make it 10-7.
Riby-Williams repeated the feat a few minutes later to put Montpelier up 12-11 with the Solons’ first lead of the game. A Jennings putback off a Mathis missed free throw gave Milton the lead, 13-12, as the teams continued to trade points with Milton taking an 18-14 halftime lead.
Ducharme opened the second half with a strong drive as Milton made its bid to pull away. Jennings then found Sam Patterson in transition for another easy two to make it 22-14, forcing Foster to call a timeout. Montpelier’s Tyler Ricker (nine points) then uncorked the Solons’ first 3-pointer of the night to make it 22-17. Cattaneo hit a second 3-pointer for the Solons just a minute later, cutting the lead to 26-22. A few minutes later, Riby-Williams turned in the lane to tie the game at 26.
“I think we got to a point where we tied it and maybe we ran a couple guys a bit too long,” Foster said. “In a game like this, you have to get some rest when you can.”
It was obvious that both teams were running on fumes at the end of the third quarter. But Jennings answered for Milton on the other end with his first 3-pointer to make it 29-26. Cattaneo and Jennings traded baskets, with the Yellowjackets holding a 31-30 edge heading to the final quarter.
Creamer had enough energy left to get the job done at the end. Stepping back to make a 3-pointer, the senior forward gave his team the boost they needed. After a basket from Riby-Williams, Creamer stepped back once more for another 3-pointer to make it 37-32.
It was the straw that broke the Solons’ backs.
A foul-line jumper from Jennings made it 39-32 and the wheels on the Solons bus started to fall off quickly. Jennings took a feed from Creamer to make it 42-35. Creamer’s drive down the lane made it 44-35 as Milton held on to punch its ticket to the D-II semifinal in Barre.
“I think we were able to utilize a few more guys and we’ve been playing great fourth-quarter basketball lately,” Milton coach Chris Brown said. “Our defense in the second half was awesome and these guys worked really hard for another shot in Barre.”
Milton (12-9) will face No. 3 Lake Region on Wednesday in Barre at 8:15 p.m. Montpelier finishes the season at 16-6.