By Jeff Nations
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's Nathan Miller lost his cool once against Eastern Mennonite on Monday night, and there was no chance the Generals sophomore was about to let it happen again.
At the free throw line with his team up just two points with two seconds to play, Miller coolly knocked down both shots to seal a 46-42 home boys basketball victory.
"It's kind of everybody's dream when they get up there in that situation," Miller said. "The blood's running, the pressure's up, but it's good when you hit them."
Earlier in the contest, Miller sparked a brief dust-up when he took exception to an overzealous rebound attempt by the Flames' Nikita Stoll. Their brief confrontation didn't amount to much, except the Generals lost a pair of starters when Leonel Galindez and Corey Polk were both ejected with a minute left in the third quarter -- ostensibly for leaving the bench area during the stoppage.
"It was just aggression, going after the ball -- nothing was meant by it," Miller said. "Just tempers flared -- I got frustrated. It wasn't a big deal."
Stonewall Jackson (4-4) was leading 31-25 at the time of those dual ejections, and instead of losing momentum the Generals actually increased their lead to 10 points (37-27) when Ian Pugh's basket inside capped a 6-2 run to open the fourth quarter.
"The kids responded well -- we'll find out how well they respond in the near future," Stonewall Jackson coach Patrick Smoot said. "The kids play together. They've really bonded this year, and when whatever happens, happens, we have to come together. And that's what they did. They came together and they pushed, and good things kind of came out of that."
The Flames still had plenty of fight, though, as they whittled that lead back down to one point at 40-39 on Yosef Daniel's basket in the paint with 2:31 to play.
Stonewall answered with a pair of made free throws by Colton Harlow, then stretched the lead further on Harlow's runner on the Generals' next possession.
"We've got a lot of different scoring threats that a lot of people don't know about," Smoot said. "Colton's big-time, he hit some big shots for us -- he always does. And Ian steps up as a freshman and drills a couple shots, makes a couple good moves to the basket and draws a couple fouls."
Down five, Eastern Mennonite (3-4) answered with another Daniel bucket and a free throw by Daniel Nyce to pull back within two at 44-42 with 1:23 to play.
"I thought we started battling a little bit and gave a little better effort defensively," Flames coach Dave Bechler said. "The first quarter we tried a little bit of junk on them and got some of us standing too much. It came down to a last-second shot, but we lost the ballgame at the free-throw line."
The Flames had a chance to take the lead on their next possession, but Chad Lehman missed on a 3-point attempt. Stonewall misfired on its next possession when Harlow missed a short jumper on the baseline on an inbounds play, and the Flames called time out with 13 seconds left to set up one last play.
With time running out, Eastern Mennonite's Aaron Bergman popped open at the top of the key for a 3-point attempt, but his shot was off and Miller tracked down the loose ball for the rebound to draw a foul and earn his clinching trip to the free-throw line.
Stonewall Jackson dominated the early going, jumping out to a 15-4 first-quarter lead as Daniel Buhl tallied eight points in the first eight minutes.
Eastern Mennonite cut that advantage to just two points at 18-16 by halftime, as Bergman sparked the rally with seven points in the second quarter.
Bergman led the Flames with 18 points.
Harlow finished with 14 points, and Buhl had 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Generals.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>