Miller scores 37, Mexico knocks off Tigers

Miller scores 37, Mexico knocks off Tigers
Mya Miller soaring toward the basket was a common sight on Wednesday as the Bulldogs upended Kirksville. [Eric Mattson]
Dave Faries

“How many points did number 23 score?”

That question haunted Kirksville players, coaches and the visiting fan who asked it following Mexico’s 55-43 win over the Tigers last Wednesday evening at The Sports Complex.

Mya Miller – number 23 for the Bulldogs – dominated the game on both ends of the floor. She battered the visitors from the start, flying across the lane for an opening lay up, taking an overhead pass from Alexis Willer to the hoop shortly afterward, outscoring Kirksville 8-4 in the first quarter.

After Riley Thurman rolled one in to open the second period, Miller fired a kick out pass to Taylor DeMint, who sank a shot from beyond the arc. Miller followed up with a three of her own to give the Bulldogs a 16-4 cushion.

She would continue to romp until the final whistle – a steal and coast to coast break, a nifty reverse lay up, another assist to a driving DeMint are just a few moments from the highlight reel.

Miller was 12 of 15 from the line and pulled down 11 rebounds. Her 37 points on the night approached the Mexico record of 40 for girls basketball, set in the 1982-83 season.

And yet the game seemed lethargic at times.

“They like to play slow,” Miller said of Kirksville.

Mexico’s defense harassed the Tigers from the start, playing a frantic press and constantly looking for opportunities to trap. But the visitors paced themselves and soon began nibbling away at the Bulldog’s early lead.

A Mexico turnover allowed Kirksville to close the gap to 21-16 at the half. And a foul early in the third sent the Tigers’ Devan Corbett to the line for two, bringing the game to 21-18.

“It wasn’t the prettiest of games,” said Mexico head coach Ed Costley. “Kirksville is very methodical on offense and we don’t have that much patience.”

Miller hit a layup, Thurman knocked in a put back jumper and Elizabeth Joiner found nothing but net on a three to open up a 10 point advantage with 3:35 to go in the third.

The Bulldogs worked hard for Joiners shot. Finding all routes to the paint blocked by Tigers, they prowled the perimeter, back and forth until the freshman found some space at the top of the arc.

“I felt like the shot was going to come, but I didn’t think it would be then and there,” Joiner said of her quick reaction after receiving the ball.

Her three-pointer proved critical. Kirksville reeled off a 12-2 run to open the fourth quarter, with Kenslie Stufflebean, Channing Totta and Stufflebean again finding the range from three point land.

Suddenly the Bulldogs were clinging to a one-point lead.

But Wednesday was Miller time. She responded by pounding one on two into the paint for a three-footer – plus one when fouled – and made another strong move a few moments later, dropping one in from the bottom of the key, again over two defenders.

The next critical shot wasn’t from Miller. DeMint knifed in from the wing, took a pass from Miller and drove hard through three Tigers, lofting an underhand shot through the net.

“They’re always taller than me, so I had to go under,” said the junior guard. “I knew I had to get a lay up.”

The points gave Mexico just enough space. The Tigers would close again – to within 3, but that’s all. Miller and Willer crafted a 10-2 run – 8 of the 10 from Miller – to wrap things up.

“We’re not used to playing a team that big,” Miller said. “But after the first quarter we were playing our pace.”

Thurman finished with 6 points on the night, while DeMint tacked on 5. Joiner’s crucial 3, a pair of free throws from Riley Blevins and 2 from Willer rounded out the scoring.

The Bulldogs are 6-2 on the year. They travel to Bowling Green on Thursday for a 5:30 pm matchup.


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