Millers look to bounce back in second half of season

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By Chuck Reherman, Sports Editor – Yukon has been on the cusp of winning basketball games and the Millers are looking to make that break through starting with the 2018 part of the season.
The Millers have played five top 10 ranked teams in their first seven outings and take a 1-6 record into the break. YHS did beat class 3A No. 9 ranked Hugo 58-55.
YHS ended the first half of the season with a 57-52 loss to No. 11 ranked Edmond Memorial on the Millers’ home court. It was the second five-point loss to a top 15 ranked team.
“We are 60 to 90 seconds away from winning games,” Miller head coach Kevin Ritter said. “We played the No. 11 team to five and the No. 7 team to five. They are not going to want to play us in the playoffs of we keep getting better. We are getting closer. Our schedule didn’t set up well for us with a bunch of new guys. We get those wins coming and and it will be a huge confidence builder for our guys.”
The Millers had led Edmond Memorial 22-16 starting the second half, but saw the Bulldogs reel off seven straight points, then put together another run late in the third quarter to take an eight-point lead.
“We start the second half up six, take two bad shots and it’s a one point game,” Ritter said. “We get close, let them make a seven or 8-0 run, it lasted about a minute and that was the game.
“We are this close, that is what I told them after the game,” he said. “If you will stick with it, it is coming. I tell you it is coming, but we have to keep getting better. Memorial was ranked in the state.
“We have played the No. 5, 6, 7 and 11 in the state and we have lost by single digits in all of them. If you stick with it we will have a chance.”
The 7-0 run gave the Bulldogs a 23-22 lead two minutes into the second half. A Carvell McKinley field goal put the Millers back in the lead.
An Austin Henry shot gave Yukon a 32-30 lead, then after Memorial reeled off four straight points, Karsten Berg nailed a trey for a 35-34 lead with 2:41 left in the third.
That’e when Memoriual went on a 9-0 run to take a 43-35 lead. A Berg trey cut the lead to five and he hit a third trey in the quarter to bring the Millers within four, 45-41.
The Millers cut the lead to 48-46 with 5:15 remaining. After Memorial pushed the lead to six, 52-46, Michael Clanton hit a trey to make it a three-point game.
The Millers got within two, 54-52 with 22 seconds remaining, but had to foul and Memorial hit their free throws to ice the game.
“I wasn’t upset with them (after the game), I told them they played hard and we made some shots, we just have to make a little more and we will get there,” Ritter said. “If we can keep them at arms length we have a chance. Everyone is getting up eight or nine, just far away we can’t catch up, we have to keep them at arms length and it is a learning process with these new guys.
“In the third quarter, we kind of did lose our focus,” Ritter said. “We have to control it more with timeouts. Some of it was were trying to mix it up and try something new and it backfired. We tried to change things up, we had four guys doing one thing and one doing something else.
“Some of it is being an athlete and they get that its my turn and instead of sticking with what we are doing, we do something on our own That is why we make a push then let teams come back. We can’t stick with it long enough. It is more of us being a competitor and we are not sticking with the hot hand.”
The Millers did start the game off stronger offensively. A Berg trey gave YHS an 8-7 lead early in the game and an Austin Olea trey made it a 13-10 game. Carson Price’s tip-in on a missed shot with less than a second remaining gave the Millers a 15-12 lead.
An Olea trey and field goals from Sanford Arnett and Henry gave the Millers a 22-16 halftime lead.
“We have done better offensively because the right people are shooting shots in the right spot and that is making a big difference,” Ritter said. “We have a point guard that has not played organized school ball in two and one-half years in Michael. He is getting better from pure comfort level and we will talk a bunch during the break about what our role is and what our role does to help the team. I don’t think we are completely established they are starting to figure that out and they will help also.
“We have changed up some things to fit our strengths on offense,” he said. “We spent so much time in the pre-season working on defense that we ran a motion continiuity offense and now we are getting certain guys certain shots and getting in better position.
“I hoping the second semester things will start working and we will make a move.”
Berg led the Miller scoring with 15 points (all on three’s), Clanton added nine, McKinley eight, Henry seven, Olea six and Price five.
The Millers return to the court on Jan. 2, hosting Edmond Deer Creek. YHS heads to the McGuinness Classic at Bishop McGuinness High School beginning Jan. 4.