By Thomas Sellers Jr.
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — The Millington Trojans’ season of cheer quickly diminished after beating rival the Munford Cougars.
In front of their home fans Dec. 17, the Trojans pulled away from the Cougars for the victory and to improve to 8-3 overall. Riding high, Millington scheduled a few games to close out the calendar year. And 2021 ended in disappointing fashion.
On Dec. 28 in the Desoto Central Gymnasium, the Heritage Patriots edged out the Trojans 53-50 for the win. That outcome came just one day after Millington dropped a one-point decision to Jackson Academy.
“We’ve taken that step back two steps, three steps,” Millington Head Coach Jewell Gates said. “Maybe even four steps back because we think it is easy to be great. I hope they’re getting a reality check. These last three games, since Dec. 17 I think we’ve had a hangover.
“They thought that was the end all, be all,” he continued. “But it was not. It was a non-district game in the middle of December. You should be pushing toward district stuff. We’ve taken steps back and it may be on me. Maybe I am not pushing like I should. And I think sometimes they don’t accept the push because it is hard to be great. It is very hard.”
Coming into the Heritage contest on a two-game losing streak, Millington fell behind 20-7 in the first quarter. The Patriot duo of Mack Howard and Trey Naugher led the way for Heritage. Howard drained a pair of three-pointers while Naugher dominated the interior with post baskets. The Trojans closed out the first quarter on a 6-0 run to make the score 20-13 heading into the second.
Millington and Heritage traded buckets in the second quarter with Trojans BJ Gilmore, Seth Grandberry and Chris Barnes keeping pace with Naugher. The halftime score was 30-22 in favor of the Patriots.
The third quarter was dominated by the Trojans with Millington turning up the full-court pressure. Barnes and teammate Blake Garner made steals leading to layups to make the score 36-30. Millington’s run continued when Grandberry used an Euro-step move for a bucket.
Next up was Gilmore with a basket to make the tally 38-34. Naugher postponed Millington’s momentum with a put-back bucket drawing a foul. Naugher’s three-point play made the score 41-34. Heritage led 41-36 entering the fourth quarter.
The Trojans finally took the lead at the 5:27 mark of the fourth quarter with a 8-2 run sparked by the shooting of Grandberry. Another Grandberry bucket made the score 44-43.
Down the stretch the game was tied twice at 48-48 and 50-50. It was a pair of Naugher free throws that deadlocked the game at 50.
The game-winning basket came with 4.8 seconds left when Whit Altmyer nailed a three-pointer for Heritage.
“Loose balls, things like that, not doing that will lose a ballgame,” Gates said. “Down the stretch our bigs had two blocks. Josh did and Blake did, and who came up with the ball? The other team did. The opposing team did and scored or got fouled. Our guys were standing watching the ball instead of going to get it. We don’t get the basketball.
“We might stick our hands in there but we don’t stick our bodies in there to go get the ball,” he concluded. “That toughness you hear me talk about so much it’s missing. We camouflaged it earlier. But I knew it was going to come back to haunt us. It would come back to bite us in the butt and right now it’s biting very hard.”