Milan scores 46 second-half points to stun Temperance Bedford, win district title
Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com
A reminder was written on the board in the pregame locker room, just in case any of the players somehow forgot it: Milan was the underdog going into its district title game against Temperance Bedford.
The Big Reds didn’t forget, and used that underdog mentality as fuel in their biggest game of the season.
Milan scored 46 second-half points and overcame a nine-point halftime deficit to upset Bedford, 67-60, Friday night in a Class A district final at Bedford.
“We wanted to make sure that people knew who we are,” Big Reds senior forward C.J. Turnage said. “Everybody thinks that just because we play in the Huron League, we’re little Milan, we’re not that good. So we wanted to prove to people who we really are.”
The Big Reds, who put up a 19-1 regular-season record while playing as one of the largest teams in the Huron League, did what no Ann Arbor team could do all season: win a game in Bedford’s hostile gym.
“I think we showed everybody in the Ann Arbor area who the best team in Washtenaw County is,” Milan coach Josh Tropea said. “The only one that came down to Bedford and won this year.”
The win gives Milan its second district title in four years, and first at the Class A level. It advances to play Gibraltar Carlson in a regional semifinal game Monday at Wyandotte Roosevelt.
Milan sophomore guard Latin Davis scored a season-high 25 points, and as he went, so did the Big Reds. Davis had just five points at halftime, including none in the Big Reds’ six-point second quarter. He exploded for 20 of his team’s 46 points after the second half.
Tropea said he told Davis before the game that he would likely be open off ball screens, and should look to shoot.
“He wanted me to be more aggressive off screens,” Davis said. “At halftime he told me I only have 5 points, so I had to look to be aggressive, so that’s what I did.”
Turnage added 17 points and Stephen Evans had 13.
The game featured two of the best forwards in the area in Turnage and Bedford’s Jackson Lamb, a returning All-State player who scored 25 of his team’s 60 points.
“C.J. Turnage and Jackson Lamb have been as special as any two players in the state,” Tropea said. “But the bottom line is, C.J.’ s been overshadowed because of Lamb. If Lamb is number one, C.J.’s been 1A all the time. There’s no question about that.”
The matchup didn’t disappoint. Five minutes into the game, Lamb took a feed in the lane and threw down an a two-handed slam. A minute later, Turnage had a fast-break opportunity and flushed a one-handed dunk over a defender.
But Turnage had the final highlight-reel play, as he came in from the wing and dunked over Lamb.
“I was real happy after that,” Turnage said. “I knew he didn’t like that one.”
After a strong start to the game, Milan committed its seventh foul with 7:25 left in the first half, and had to switch to a zone defense to keep its players available. That allowed Bedford to go on a 17-6 run as the Big Reds looked to stay in the game.
“Our mentality was hang around for a half and we’ll make a run in the second half,” Tropea said. “We thought we could wear their guards down.”
The Big Reds came out of the second half in a full-court, man-to-man defense and went on a 9-2 run while forcing Bedford into a pair of turnovers. For the game, the Kicking Mules recorded 15 turnovers, compared to six for Milan.
The second-half pace favored the Big Reds, who hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:17 of the third quarter to take a two-point lead into the fourth.
“Our full-court man turned them over and sped them up, and by speeding them up, they couldn’t feed the ball to Jackson,” Tropea said.
Bedford tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, but Milan pulled away with three minutes left and hit nine of 10 free throws in the final 1:23 to seal the win.
“We never doubted ourselves,” Tropea said. “Let me tell you, we appreciate all the naysayers. We love it.”