NECEDAH — Through the first four games of the season, Necedah senior guard Miles Saylor was relatively quiet — at least by his lofty standards — on the offensive end, scoring 37 total points with only one game in double digits.
But Thursday night against the Royall Panthers, Saylor reminded everyone why he’ll go down as one of the most prolific scorers in Necedah basketball history.
Saylor scored a game-high 22 points, including 18 in the second half, to lead the Cardinals (3-2 overall, 2-1 Scenic Bluffs) past previously unbeaten Royall (5-1, 2-1) 41-30 Thursday, Dec. 21 at Necedah High School.
“We made it a point of emphasis to work the ball to him a little more,” said Necedah coach Kris Saylor. “We made it a point of emphasis to have him be a little more aggressive. We knew that if he’s a little more aggressive, he helps pick up the play of some other guys. Luckily he did; with the foul trouble we had, we lost a couple guys that put points on the board throughout the game. He came up really big for us tonight. It was huge.”
His contributions, especially in the second half, proved to be pivotal in the final result.
In the first half, the two teams battled back and forth, holding each other mostly in check on offense.
Just seconds before the end of the half, Necedah senior forward Tyler Reichel buried a 3-pointer to knot the score at 17-17 heading into the locker room at halftime.
Once the second half started, Saylor took over.
He helped generate a quick 7-0 run to give the Cardinals a 24-17 lead. Though Royall answered with five points of its own the cut the deficit to two, Necedah kept the Panthers at bay and would not trail again the rest of the way.
In a tightly officiated game, Saylor’s aggressiveness on the offensive end paid off, as he made several trips to the free-throw line to help fight off any hope of a Royall run. In total, he scored 18 of the Cardinals’ 24 second-half points.
“He’s not a 3-point threat, but he’s probably one of the better midrange players I’ve seen in a long time,” said Royall coach Scott Uppena said of Saylor. “Everybody calls it a lost art, but he certainly has it. He’s pretty good from 10 feet to about 16 feet away from the basket. And that’s a tough transition when you’re not used to guarding it.
“He does a good job of taking care of the ball, and then he pulls up on a dime and he’s got a good midrange, which is tough to defend.”
Though Uppena was pleased with his team’s defensive effort, he believed it was on the offensive end where the Panthers lost the game. Senior forward Tristan Welchlin scored 17 points, but no other Royall player finished with more than five.
“I was more concerned with our lack of offensive production, when it comes to being disciplined enough to run what we’re supposed to run,” Uppena said.
“Their defense, it’s a good 1-3-1 — it’s packed tight, they have their hands high — but we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do in order to be competitive with them in this game. They’re a good ball club and they’re well coached.”
Meanwhile, Kris Saylor praised Royall’s effort and refusal to go away quietly.
“Kudos to them,” he said. “They didn’t give up. They weren’t having their best offensive night and Coach Uppena does a great job. It’s a good team, so we’re very fortunate to win.”
In the end, Saylor felt it was his team’s impressive defensive effort all throughout the game combined with some timely offensive plays which allowed the Cardinals to come away with an important win over a quality conference opponent.
“I thought we defended really hard and defended really well against a good offensive team,” he said. “And I thought we stepped up and made plays offensively. I don’t think it was pretty, but we don’t know the definition of pretty — that doesn’t apply to us. We’ll take our W.”