SHAMOKIN The pain still fresh in the their faces, Milton's senior co-captains Chad Diggan, Michael Jacobs, Tyrel Kling and Brandon Rogers came together for a final group hug in front of the Black Panthers' bench as their teammates finished up a lop-sided defeat to Scranton Prep behind them.
The quartet of seniors didn't want their final game to end like this, a 69-32 loss to the Cavaliers in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA playoffs, but their legacies will one day trump Friday's defeat.
The Black Panthers, once a fixture in the PIAA playoffs, hadn't won a district championship in six years before this group combined with a talented collection of underclassmen to make a surprising run to the District 4 title this year.
"(The senior group) meant everything," Milton coach Steve DeLong said. "All of sudden Milton basketball is relevant again. Tonight takes nothing away from any of that.
"It hurts to go out like this, but Scranton Prep is a really good basketball team. I knew that senior class had it in them and they left their mark on this town and nobody is ever going to forget that. What more could you ask from a group of kids like that."
DeLong did everything he could to slow the Cavaliers down in the first half, calling four timeouts. It did little to help, though, as Scranton Prep's lead grew to six, 14 and finally 24 points before the half.
"The quick start was huge because once we got our defensive intensity up then we started pushing the ball and everything started flowing and everyone started to get in the groove," Scranton Prep senior guard Matt Knowles said.
The District 2 third-place team scored the game's first 14 points before Rogers drove down the right side of the lane for a layup and Milton's first points with 56.4 seconds left in the first quarter. Rogers' penetration was one of the few aggressive offensive moves by a Black Panthers player in the first eight minutes as they settled for outside jumpers. Milton shot 1 of 10 in the first quarter and trailed 17-3.
The District 4 champions also had trouble holding onto the ball in the first half, committing 14 turnovers. The combination of turnovers and long rebounds allowed the Cavaliers to get out in transition and score 39 first-half points.
"Their pressure really bothered us and we were kind of playing on our heels," DeLong said. "They punched us right in the mouth and we didn't really respond at all. Tonight they were better at every position and every phase in the game."
Milton (16-9) did score the first five points in the second quarter before Scranton Prep called a timeout and came out and ran off the next nine points for a 26-8 lead.
"We lost focused for a little bit and coach called timeout," Knowles said. "We re-gained our focus and then we played like we did in the first quarter."
Travis Krall received some touches in the paint for the Milton in the second quarter and scored six points. He finished with seven.
Jacbos led the Black Panthers with 13 points. He knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half after not hitting a field goal in the first.
Knowles led Scranton Prep (19-8) with 15 points. Tim Rose added 14 and James Fives and Mac Temples added 12 each.
Scranton Prep will play Neumann-Goretti, an 81-54 winner over Bishop McDevitt, on Tuesday in the PIAA second round at a site and time to be determined.
Scranton Prep (69)
Matt Knowles 5 3-4 15, Tim Walsh 0 0-0 0, James Fives 2 8-8 12, Matt Bershefsky 0 0-0 0, Noah Beh 3 2-4 8, Justin Belardi 1 0-0 2, Mac Temples 5 2-3 12, Corey Sweda 0 0-0 0, Tim Rose 4 6-6 14, Bobby Casey 0 0-0 0, Corey Kopicki 0 0-1 0, John O'Boyle 0 0-0 0, Kevin Bannon 0 0-2 0, Zach Brandt 2 0-0 4, Jerry Walsh 1 0-4 2, Dan Ryan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 21-32 69.
Ethan Baker 0 0-0 0, Tyrel Kling 0 0-0 0, Michael Jacobs 3 4-5 13, Brandon Rogers 1 1-3 3, KJ Williams 0 0-0 0, Wade Heidel 0 0-0 0, Chad Diggan 1 0-0 3, Travis Krall 3 1-2 7, Logan Feltman 1 0-0 3, Javy Gonzalez 1 0-0 3. Totals: 10 6-10 32.
Scranton Prep17 22 18 12 69
Milton3 12 7 10 32
3-point goals: Scranton Prep 2 (Knowles 2); Milton 6 (Jacobs 3, Diggan, Feltman, Gonzalez).
Records: Scranton Prep 19-8, Milton 16-9.