BY CHAD DARE
Despite the result, Milford basketball coach John Spezia saw what he wanted to see on Tuesday night.
In a second-round game at the Cornjerker Classic at Hoopeston Area High School, the Bearcats committed two turnovers and missed three shots in the final minute as they dropped to 0-2 with a 53-51 loss to the LeRoy Panthers.
“This was 100 percent improvement,’’ said Spezia in comparison to Milford’s loss to Iroquois West on Monday night. “We had opportunities to win this game, but a one-handed pass led to a turnover. And LeRoy capitalized on it.’’
Nick Aupperle of the Panthers drained his third 3-pointer of the contest with 41.3 seconds left, giving LeRoy a 52-51 lead. Aupperle led the Panthers with 16 points.
Milford (0-2) committed its second turnover in the final minute on the ensuing possession, but the Bearcats got a final chance when LeRoy’s Cole Pilura, who had 13 points, made just 1-of-2 free throws with 11.3 seconds left.
Wyatt Alt and Jeff Cann each got shots in the final 10 seconds and Cann drew a foul, giving the junior an opportunity to tie the game at the free-throw line with 00.7 seconds on the clock. Cann missed the front end of the one-and-one and a tip attempt from Jacob Rogers was just off the mark.
“We were getting shots and we did a better job of running the offense,’’ Spezia said.
Alt had a game-high 20 points for the Bearcats, while Rogers had 16 and Cann finished with 12.
“We’re still playing without a couple of key contributors and good outside shooters,’’ said Spezia, as Josh Killion and Alex Portwood are out with injuries. Spezia said neither player will be back this week, but he is hopeful to have them before the start of the Vermilion Valley Conference season.
The difference in the game came at the 3-point line where LeRoy made 10 shots behind to the arc to just one for Milford from Jordan Gullquist.
In the third-round of the Cornjerker Classic on Friday, Milford will play Donovan in a 3:30 p.m. game, while LeRoy takes on Hoopeston Area in a 7:30 p.m. contest.