Milton's Colin Mathis is fired up after a fourth quarter basket-and-foul. Mathis scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the final frame to lead Milton to a 49-48 win at BFA Fairfax (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)


By Ben Kaufmann

FAIRFAX – Colin Mathis scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to help Milton hold off BFA-Fairfax and pick up a 49-48 win on Thursday night.

Milton (3-5) scored 14 points in the final quarter, with Mathis assisting the one basket he didn’t score. The Yellow Jackets held a 49-42 lead with less than 90 seconds to go but Riley Greene and Evan Fletcher made threes to cut the MHS lead to a single point. A game-winning attempt from Greene at the buzzer was off the mark and Milton breathed a sigh of relief.

“The kids played hard tonight,” said BFA coach Dave Demar. “We were down seven with a minute and a half left and the kids really dug deep and played some tough defense, some smart basketball.”

“We got hit in the mouth right away,” said Milton coach John LaFreniere. “They got a little bit of a lead on us, and then we played them pretty evenly the rest of the game. We got enough of a cushion at the end to give us the win.”

Fairfax (2-5) certainly did have the edge in the early going. Eight straight points, bookended by a pair of threes from Bryce Fontaine, helped push  the Bullets to a 12-2 lead midway through the first quarter. Milton pushed back, with consecutive threes from Hunter McClellan capping a strong run from the Yellow Jackets and ending the first with the sides knotted at 13-13.

After a three from BFA’s Lane Stygles opened the second, Milton went on another run. A rebound and baseball pass from Caden Button to McClellan, a putback from Donovyn Dallas and a hard take from Button gave the visitors a 19-16 lead with three minutes remaining. Four points from Greene and a three from Rowan Albee gave the Bullets a 24-21 halftime edge.

The third quarter went back and forth. Josh Reil had a pair of baskets, the first coming on a gorgeous give-and-go with Mi’Sean Graham, on either side of a good take from Connor Reen. A three by McClellan in response to one from Fletcher gave the Yellow Jackets a 33-31 lead, but a jumper from Jackson Wimette and short shot from Greene returned the lead to BFA. Dallas took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast to knot the score at 35-35 but a Stygles putback with two seconds left gave the Bullets a 37-35 lead entering the fourth.

Riley Greene tries a shot against Milton in the third quarter of BFA-Fairfax’s 49-48 loss to the Yellow Jackets on Thursday (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)

Having been plagued by foul trouble for much of the middle quarters, Mathis returned to the floor on a mission in the fourth. He quickly put back an offensive rebound and answered a Wimette three with two foul shots and a steal/layup combo to give Milton a 41-40 edge. BFA had done well containing Mathis in the halfcourt, with Albee or Fontaine devoting their entire attention to him in Milton’s set offense, but it’s tough to contain Mathis in transition or on the boards.

“He takes three steps and he’s at the other end of the floor, that’s tough to guard,” said Demar. “Colin Mathis is a tough, tough kid. He’s a good player. I think we did really well on him, I’m not sure what he had for points, but our guys came in and roughed him up pretty good.”

“He really turned it on in the second half and it helped the team win,” LaFreniere said. “That was our game plan coming out of halftime was to keep him on the block and he wasn’t going there and when he was, he was passing out. Then he got on a little bit of a roll, he’s tough to guard when he’s there, he’s very athletic.”

After being blocked by Reed Stygles, Mathis recovered the ball and went back up, converting an and-one play. Just past the midway point of the fourth, Mathis pulled down a defensive rebound and charged the other way. Fairfax collapsed to stop him and Mathis found a wide-open Dallas for three and a 47-40 lead. Fontaine answered with a baseline runner a minute later but Mathis scored on an up-and-under move in response to make it a 49-42 Milton lead with 90 seconds to go.

Fairfax played those final 90 seconds beautifully, aided by Milton missing the front end of all three one-and-one attempts it took in that span. Greene hit a long pull-up three with 1:12 on the clock then with Reed Stygles on the ball and his teammates on their marks, BFA forced a five-second call when Milton couldn’t inbound the ball with 44 seconds remaining. Greene saved a ball on the endline and got it to Wimette, who swung to Fletcher for a three to cut Milton’s lead to just 49-48 with 21 seconds left.

After each team turned the ball over, the Yellow Jackets needed a timeout to avoid another five-second call. It finally dawned on Milton that it had Mathis, an elite high jumper and the best athlete on the floor, and Button simply threw a pass as high as he could and let Mathis rise above everyone else to catch it. Though Mathis didn’t hit his ensuing free throw, less than five seconds remained and Greene had to rush an off-balance three at the buzzer which never had much of a chance.

Greene and Fontaine led Fairfax’s offense with a dozen points apiece and Fletcher scored nine on a trio of threes. Wimette and each of the Stygles brothers finished with five points each to round out the Bullet scoring. Despite the narrow loss, Demar is confident his squad is headed in the right direction heading into a showdown with Stowe on Wednesday.

“It’s tough, a loss is a loss, but I think we are getting better. One day at a time and focus on the little things, I think we’re going to go a long way.”

Behind the 18 from Mathis, Milton’s depleted squad got help from all over. McClellan had 11 points, Dallas had nine and Riel had seven. Button and Reen finished with two points apiece. Graham, Aidan Garrow and freshman Sam Plouffe gave valuable contributions with important minutes.

“We’re still a bunch of guys down, a lot of guys stepped up tonight,” said LaFreniere. “It was a hard fought game. Good matchup.”

Milton returns to action Monday with a tough matchup at undefeated North Country (9-0).

BFA-Fairfax’s Reed Stygles in Milton’s 49-48 win over the Bullets on Thursday (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)