MILFORD — Nevaeh Stauffer sparked a fourth-quarter explosion from the Eagle offense as Class C-1 No. 9 Milford defeated No. 8 Syracuse 39-34 in thrilling fashion.
A three-pointer from Stauffer gave Milford (10-3) the first points of the game, but the Eagles wouldn’t lead again until the one-minute mark of the fourth quarter. While Milford expected Syracuse (9-2) to play man-to-man defense, the Rockets’ 2-3 zone helped them go on an 11-0 run to finish the first quarter.
Milford showed signs of life in the second quarter, going on an 11-4 run to end the half as a few of its shots began to fall.
“I knew eventually they were going to fall, but it took until about the fourth quarter to start hitting them,” Milford head coach Phil Stauffer said.
The third quarter sent Milford back to square one, as the Eagles went six minutes without scoring and trailed 28-21 heading into the final quarter.
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It was a physical, defensive game throughout. Milford’s Hannah Kepler learned that the hard way, suffering a cut that needed stitches, knocking her out of the game at a key point.
“It did get a little rough, but I’m proud of girls for stepping up, and to lose Hannah at that point was tough, she’s a very important part of our offense,” Stauffer said.
Syracuse’s Lily Vollertsen was a problem defensively for Milford all night, scoring a game-high 14 points, and when she scored a layup to put Syracuse up 32-27 with three minutes to go, Milford needed a spark.
Nevaeh Stauffer provided it. She immediately answered back with a three-pointer, and after Milford traded baskets with Syracuse, came up with a steal and breakaway layup to give Milford a slim 35-34 lead. Stauffer then made two free throws in clutch fashion, and the Eagles added two more free throws to secure the victory.
Stauffer scored 10 of her team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter, and her leadership helped spur the Eagles to the late comeback.
“In the huddle, she stepped up and said, ‘We’re not losing this game,’” Stauffer said. “She came out and that was somebody who wanted it and she got it.”