HARVARD – Alden-Hebron boys basketball coach Dale Jandron knew coming into Monday’s game against Harvard that the Hornets had a legitimate inside scorer in 6-foot-1 forward Tate Miller.
But even though the Giants keyed on the versatile Miller, he was able to muscle through defenders and post a game-high 18 points, 15 of which came in the first half of the Hornets’ 47-22 nonconference victory.
“We knew that he could score some points,” Jandron said of Miller. “Most of his work comes from over his left shoulder, and we knew that, but we just couldn’t do anything to consistently stop him under the basket.”
Watching Miller score his 15 first-half points was like watching a replay of the same basket. Countless times the Hornets (1-4) fed the ball inside to Miller, who was able to move the defender to his backside and go up with ease to score. After three mostly uncontested baskets, the Giants (2-4) began to foul Miller, but that just resulted in three three-point plays.
“The biggest thing for me was just seeing those shots go in,” Miller said. “More than anything, it was a big confidence booster for me.”
For the Hornets, Miller’s ability to score was the perfect answer for a team that was experiencing shooting woes in the first half. Harvard ran screens on nearly every offensive possession, but the shooters weren’t able score with any kind of consistency so they rode Miller through the tough times.
“Part of what we want to run is those pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pop screen plays,” Harvard coach Donnie Nolen said. “But our shooters weren’t able to knock down those open shots, so we often went back and looked to the post to find Miller. He had a great game, and when you can get inside scoring like that, it really helps with what we are trying to do as a team on a whole.”
Justin Nolen added nine points for the Hornets.
Harvard got out to a quick start at home behind a loud crowd that made themselves known as every point was scored.
The Hornets scored 18 first-quarter points while holding the Giants to four with their aggressive trap defense.
A-H’s game plan was clear from the start, move the ball around and find the shooters in the corner, but it was foiled as Harvard snuffed it out quickly. Giants guard Hunter Ogle had the hot hand early, scoring the first four points of the game, but Harvard quickly keyed in on him and largely took him out of the game. Ogle finished with a team-high 10 points.
The Hornets have progressively played better each game, and Donnie Nolen said Monday’s game was a complete team effort as he saw his team shoot better, defend better and give a stronger collective effort on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve been slowly getting better each game,” the Harvard coach said. “Each game is another step in which I see us improving and tonight was the best we have played so far. Granted we are only four games in, but everything was better tonight.”
Miller said that the locker room atmosphere felt different tonight as their first win as a team instilled confidence in the young team that starts just one senior. It was evident as the game wore on when the Hornets could sense they were closing in on their first win. The guards who were missing shots by shooting long early in the game were making the same baskets.
“The pressure wasn’t as high near the end,” said Miller who offered an explanation for his team’s loose play. “After the game I could just sense that our collective confidence just got higher and with this first win we can put our focus on developing our game so it stays consistent and so we can build on this game.”