WEST MILTON — It wasn’t easy.
And Milton-Union girls basketball coach Katie Roose knew it wouldn’t be.
But, a big shot by Taylor Falb and some shut-down defense in the final minute propelled the Bulldogs to a 37-36 win over Carlisle in the SWBL opener for both teams Thursday night.
“We just had to have some defensive stops their at the end,” Roose said. “The girls did a great job and never lost their composure.”
Milton-Union had led throughout the first half and most of the third quarter, before a seven-point run by Carlisle tied the game at 30 late in the third quarter and it was a battle the rest of the way.
“I told the girls at halftime that Carlisle wasn’t going away,” Roose said. “They had that seven-point run, but we were able to settle down.”
Two free throws by Jayla Gentry gave the Bulldogs a 32-30 lead going to the fourth quarter and Rachel Jacobs had a putback to start the fourth quarter and put the Bulldogs in front 34-30.
The game then turned into a defensive battle over the next six minutes as Carlisle scored three points to make it 34-33 and Milton-Union would not score again until Falb hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining to make it 37-33.
“It is one of those shots where you are saying, ‘No, No, No’ and then it goes in,” Roose said with a laugh. “It is a great shot if it goes in. It was a big shot by Taylor (Falb). Then we had to respond on defense.”
Carlisle’s Jillian McIntosh hit a free throw with 1:01 remaining and Kaylee Lawson scored with 44 seconds to go to make it 37-36.
At the same time, Milton-Union couldn’t convert on a Madison Jones steal and also missed two front end of one-and-ones.
With 6.7 seconds to go the ball went out of bounds to Carlisle under its own basket.
Carlisle had to call timeout to avoid a five-second call on the first attempt to inbounds and after getting the ball in following the timeout, the Indians missed a baseline jumper.
There was a scramble for the ball in the paint and a jump ball gave Milton-Union the possession with 1.4 seconds left.
The Bulldogs were fouled with one-tenth of a second on the clock and after missing the free throw, Carlisle’s desperation shot was off the mark, giving Milton-Union the win.
“There were some tense moments at the end,” Roose said. “But, we never lost our composure.”
Jayla Gentry sparked Milton-Union in the early going, scoring 11 points in the opening half as the Bulldogs opened a 21-12 lead at one point and were still up 21-16 at the break, before Carlisle rallied.
“Jayla (Gentry) has really gotten off to a great start in her senior year,” Roose said.
And despite starting two freshman, Milton-Union finds itself 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the SWBL, while Carlisle dropped to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the SWBL.
“It has been fun watching Rachel Jacobs and Ava Berberich,” Roose said. “Of course, they played soccer, but they are still freshman and still learning with every game.”
Gentry had 17 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots for Milton-Union.
Jones added seven points, while Jacobs had six points, three assists and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Morgan Grudich had seven rebounds and four assists and Berberich grabbed six rebounds.
Lawson led Carlisle with 12 points, while McIntosh scored eight and Sidney Morris added six points.
Milton-Union made 16 of 43 shots from the floor for 37 percent, including two of 10 from 3-point range for 20 percent. The Bulldogs converted just three of 10 free throws for 30 percent.
Milton had 42 rebounds and 18 turnovers.
“This was a big league win for us,” Roose said. “A huge win.”
Which was a battle to the end, as Roose knew it would be.