The John Milledge Academy boys basketball team had to work hard for their Tuesday night win over the visiting Westfield Hornets of Perry.
The Trojans seized a 54-48 victory, maintaining their undefeated record (20-0). The home team dug deep to avoid their first loss of the regular season.
JMA head coach David Gallagher was very happy with his team’s composure throughout the close contest.
“It’s a great win for us, especially with the playoffs right around the corner,” Gallagher said. “The target’s already on our back, so teams are bringing us their best game plans. A test like that was a good opportunity for our growth.”
It was a dogfight from the outset as the Trojans traded baskets with their opponents for much of the opening quarter. JMA freshman Jalan Butts provided a spark off the bench with two consecutive buckets to end the first, including a putback layup at the buzzer.
“He brought some fantastic energy for us,” Gallagher said. “He’s only a freshman, and he’s going to be a special player. We’ve seen flashes of it throughout the year. He’s really peaking his game at the right time of the season.”
Butts added two more buckets early in the second period before JMA junior Marcus Prestwood hit a big shot through contact. However, Westfield freshman Noah Blackmon showcased his talent with three three-pointers in the quarter. He finished the first half with five threes in total.
JMA led by a tight score of 28-25 at halftime as the Trojan Center crowd settled in for a battle.
The Trojans came out of the locker room fighting to maintain their lead. JMA senior Will Rutland knocked down two free throws and a three-pointer to get the team going. They led by a slim margin of 38-36 heading into the fourth.
In the final period, the Trojans played some physical basketball and were rewarded with several trips to the free throw line. Rutland knocked down another pair of free throws, as well as another three. Meanwhile, Prestwood earned three trips to the line, converting on half of his opportunities.
In the final three minutes of the game, JMA senior Patrick McDonel hit two clutch layups to help the home team pull away in crunch time. Up 46-45, the Trojans extended their lead to five with McDonel’s pair of baskets.
From there, the Trojans finished the job at the free throw line. It was an impressive team effort for JMA as four different players scored in double digits.
Prestwood led the team with 13 points, while Rutland and McDonel each added 12 of their own. Butts also scored 10 off the bench.
“Our best stretches are when we play together and share the basketball,” Gallagher said. “As long as we do that, we’re pretty tough to beat.”
The Trojans are scheduled to close out the regular season at home Friday against Bethlehem Christian. John Milledge will host the Region 4-AAA tournament next week.