The Grand River Conference Eastern Division champion Milan Wildcats played the Van-Far Indians on Saturday afternoon at Moberly Area Community College’s Fitzsimmons-John Arena, with a trip to the Show-Me Showdown in Springfield going to the winner.
Coming off of Wednesday night’s 89-79 victory over Harrisburg, Milan came into the quarterfinals with plenty of momentum, looking to reach an unprecedented mark in the history of Wildcat boys basketball.
Although the game in Moberly was a much lower-scoring affair than three nights prior in Mexico, Milan used a combination of timely offensive possessions and strong defense and rebounding to control the game against Van-Far, leading 12-11 after one quarter and 26-21 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats, behind five points from Marcus Diaz and a pair of two-point baskets by Ryan Dabney, extended the lead to 40-30, with eight minutes between Milan and a trip to Missouri State University.
However, the fourth quarter turned into a different story, with Van-Far, facing the end of their season, turning up the defense with full-court pressure. That switch in intensity rattled Milan, particularly over the final four minutes of regulation, with Van-Far outscoring the Wildcats 17-7 to send the game to overtime tied at 47-47. Although overtime would not produce a ton of points, the young Wildcats continue to struggle with untimely turnovers, while the Indians outscored Milan 6-2, claiming the 53-49 victory.
Saturday’s game was broadcast on KTTN FM 92.3, with the result ending Milan’s season at 27 victories against only three defeats, while Van-Far surges into the Class 2 state semifinals with a record of 26-4. While Saturday’s result will be undoubtedly painful for Milan, the potential for a return to the state playoffs (and perhaps an even further run) remains strong for the Wildcats over the next handful of seasons, with the majority of points scored in Saturday’s loss coming from underclassmen.
Sophomore big man Ryan Dabney led Milan with 19 points, while junior off-guard Marcus Diaz added 12. Unlike Wednesday night against Harrisburg, the Wildcats struggled to find a consistent third scorer against Van-Far, with Dominic Dabney scoring six points (all in the first half), while Hunter Shaw and Eddie Gonzalez both had five.
Van-Far, a much more experienced team, age-wise, in comparison to Milan, had 14 points from senior guard Joshua Hodde (including 10 after halftime), with Lathyn McMorris and Trey Miller both adding 11.
In the girls quarterfinal contest on Saturday afternoon from MACC, Northeast High School of Cairo, playing what amounted to a “home game” unless than 10 miles from their school north of Moberly, won a thriller over the New Haven Lady Shamrocks, 38-36.