By Jeff Nations - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Millbrook senior forward Boomer Kaczmarzewski was building memories, one bucket at a time, against Skyline on Tuesday night.
One of three Pioneers honored before the game on Senior Night at Millbrook, Kaczmarzewski didn't want to leave his potentially final home game with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Kaczmarzewski made sure that didn't happen against the Hawks, tallying a double-double with game highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds in Millbrook's 62-51 victory. The 6-foot-1 Kaczmarzewski even ... ahem ... lowered the boom once in the victory with a second-quarter dunk off a steal.
"Big night for me -- it could be the last night on my home court, so I wanted it to have one to remember," Kaczmarzewski said. "This is a game that's going to stay in my mind forever."
The game meant nothing in terms of postseason positioning -- the third-seeded Pioneers were already guaranteed a semifinal matchup with No. 2 Sherando next Tuesday, while No. 4 Skyline knew a play-in game against No. 5 James Wood awaited on Thursday night at Sherando.
A little momentum heading into the Northwestern District tournament would have been nice, and both found something to build on Tuesday night.
For Millbrook (15-5, 5-3 Northwestern), that final push came in the form of not just a victory but rather their resilient manner in gaining it. After jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead behind a fast-break creating defense, the Pioneers watched Skyline (12-8, 2-6) charge right back into the game with a flurry of 3-pointers. Aaron Jeremiah's trey with 7:33 left in the second quarter gave the Hawks their first lead, but Millbrook countered with an 11-3 run capped by Kaczmarzewski's offensive putback on his own missed layup.
Trailing again at 29-22 after that run, Skyline closed out the second quarter with a 9-0 spurt to grab a 31-29 halftime lead. Ryan Dyke's 3-pointer with 25 seconds left put the Hawks ahead heading into the break.
"Our kids, I think, showed a lot of character and a lot of effort out there -- tonight was incredible," Skyline coach Sonny Dyke said. "For the most part, [we] handled their pressure fairly well considering what they're putting out there against you."
Jeremiah's 3-pointer with 5:15 left in the third pushed Skyline's lead to 39-35, but Donte Harris rallied the Pioneers with consecutive field goals and Cody Brooks drove though the lane for another score that gave the lead back to Millbrook.
From there, Millbrook junior guard Rze Culbreath made certain his team would keep that lead for good. Over the final 1:17 of the third period, Culbreath scored seven points for a personal 7-2 run against the Hawks. Culbreath and Harris each had 15 points in the win.
Down seven points, the Hawks tried to force the issue by upping their pressure in the final quarter. Millbrook handled it just fine, and Kaczmarzewski was the biggest beneficiary of a slew of fast-break chances. He finished the quarter with eight points as Millbrook steadily pulled away for the win.
"Both teams would get into a rhythm for a little while and then both teams would go into a funk for a little while," Millbrook coach Scott Mankins said. "I don't think either one of us played well at the same time tonight. But we closed it out the way we needed to -- it's not the time of year to be making major overhauls, but we've got to clean things up."
Part of the Pioneers' problem was the continued absence of starter Cody Taylor, who has been out of the lineup since last week with an injured ankle. Mankins is hopeful Taylor, "the glue" for the Pioneers' first unit, will be back in time for next week's district tournament game.
Mankins was glad to get the win, but he found a few things for his team to work on before facing Sherando again -- namely, staying patient in their half-court offense.
Jeremiah just missed a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Ryan Dyke had 10 points for Skyline.
"There's a lot of positives we hope to build on Thursday night," Sonny Dyke said. "This was certainly a better effort than we had last week. We had three tough games last week.
"... We needed to play well tonight. We certainly wanted to get a win, but we definitely needed to play well and for the most part we did a lot of good things."