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Central Mountain shows progression for program in 46-40 loss to Milton

Senior PF Morgan Wetzel (14) of Central Mountain High School shoots the basketball during a high school girl’s basketball game against Milton High School on Monday, December 10, 2018 in Mill Hall. The Lady Wildcats would lose the game, 46-40. (The Express/Tim Weight)

MILL HALL — Although Central Mountain fell for the second straight game to Milton, it was apparent that the team had made tremendous strides over the offseason.

They’re more disciplined, utilize better lineups and possess higher basketball IQ’s. Absent is the inability to just dribble the ball up-court off the inbounds. And with a host of underclassmen stockpiled at the guard position, as well as a new head coach, it appears CM girls basketball is headed in the right direction.

The Wildcats lost a hard-fought game to the Milton Black Panthers, 46-40. They fizzled out in the second half and were out-scored, 29-20, after intermission, but there’s a growing sense of optimism that wins won’t be scarce this season.

“There’s no question that we are showing improvement across the board in all areas,” Central Mountain head coach Scott Baker said. “But we certainly have a long way to go. I feel like tonight’s game was one that we let slip away. We were up by nine points in the third quarter so we have to figure out a way to win [these close games].”

Avery Baker scored a Wildcat-high 16 points. Mia Kopysciansky posted eight, and Morgan Wetzel and Quinlynn McCann each added another six.

Central Mountain’s guards stood out in the opening quarter. Freshman Mia Kopysciansky hauled in a rebound on defense and dashed coast-to-coast for the layup for the game’s opening score. Sophomore Quinlynn McCann followed Kopysciansky with back-to-back buckets to extend CM’s lead, 6-0. McCann recorded five points in the opening period as the Wildcats exited the quarter ahead, 12-10.

Both defenses held the opposing’s offense scoreless the first half of the second period, but Kopysciansky pickpocketed a Milton ball handler and dribbled in for the layup to extend CM’s lead, 14-10. The sight of Kopysciansky’s forced turnover was a familiar one as CM’s defense routinely undercut Milton’s passes and capitalized off the Black Panthers’ mistakes.

“We honestly were doing nothing special and just playing straight up man-to-man coverage,” Baker said. “We got out to that lead because we were being very aggressive.”

Milton tied the game later in the period, 14-14. But back-to-back scores by Maddy Smith and another bucket by Kopysciansky saw CM enter halftime ahead, 20-17.

The Wildcats extended its lead, 26-17, after a trio of scores by Avery Baker to commence the third. Following the 6-0 run, CM began to falter on both sides of the ball.

After falling behind by nine, the Black Panthers stampeded for an 11-0 lead to gain its first lead of the night, 28-26. CM would manage to even the contest before the quarter’s end, but was outscored 22-13 in the period to enter the fourth down, 39-33.

“Milton hit a couple of shots and we started to get a little timid on defense,” CM coach Scott Baker said. “We couldn’t regain that aggression without fouling.”

Milton converted 12 shots from the charity stripe in the second half. Five of Milton’s seven fourth-quarter points were from free throws as they maintained the lead and closed the evening with a 46-40 win.

“In the second half, we just fouled too much and put them on the line,” Baker said. “They were pretty good on the line. And I think that ended up being the difference.”

A season ago, CM’s six-point loss would’ve been a moral victory. Not this year. Baker noted they were visibly upset in the locker room, which is symbolic of them finally believing in themselves on the hardwood.

“The good side of [the loss] was that they’re down right now,” Baker explained. “They’re disappointed. They’ll come back up tomorrow, but they’re disappointed and that’s a good thing.”

Baker was particularly impressed by his youthful group of guards in the game. Underclassmen Avery Baker, Mia Kopysciansky and Quinlynn McCann combined for 34 of CM’s 40 points.

“The interesting thing is that all of our guards are young, and they all have a huge upside,” Baker said. “They all have tremendous upside and they’re all young.”

Central Mountain travels to Danville Wednesday to battle the Lady Ironmen.

1 2 3 4 F

MT 10 7 22 7 46

CM 12 8 13 7 40

Central Mountain: Avery Baker 16 points , Mia Kopysciansky 8 points , Morgan Wetzel 6 points , Quinlynn McCan 6 points, Maddy Smith 4 points.

Milton: Kaylin Scott-17 points Crystal Hamilton-10 points, Alyssa Byers-5 points, Tori Brink-4 points, Mylea Neidig- 4 points, Kayla Reich-2 points, Olivia Eisenhauer 2-points, Taylor Snyder-2 points.

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