MACON, Ga. — Milton’s win over Berkmar in the Class 7A boys state championship game March 13 in Macon was far from their most dominant, prettiest or thorough of the 2020-21 season. It was their lowest offensive point total of the team’s 30-game season, and the offense struggled to find much of a rhythm throughout the contest.
Though, none of that ultimately mattered for the Eagles’ players, coaches and fans. They got the hardware.
Milton (28-2) outscored Berkmar 18-6 to close out the game with a clutch performance from sophomore Kanaan Carlyle, who shot 9-11 from the free-throw line in the final period, to lead the Eagles to the 52-47 win.
The state title is Milton’s third in program history and first since 2012.
Neither team found much separation throughout the night as both offenses looked mostly out of sync. The lead exchanged hands several times in the first half, but the largest lead for either squad was four points.
Milton junior guard Bruce Thornton, who netted 12 points with four assists, hit a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 30-29 lead early in the third quarter, but it was the team’s final lead until the waning minutes.
With 90 second left in the third, the Patriots (25-6) opened a 41-34 lead, the largest lead of either team throughout game. But Milton began slowly chipping away, eventually outpacing Berkmar three-points-to-one in the final nine minutes as the Patriots’ shooting went ice cold.
Midway through the final period, L.T. Overton scored his second straight basket to give Milton its first lead in over a quarter of play. The Eagles did not relinquish their advantage.
The Patriots had an opportunity to reclaim the lead with 68 seconds left, but both free throws were off the mark.
Carlyle made the first of several appearances at the free-throw line with 56 seconds remaining, sinking both shots to push Milton’s lead to 46-43.
After a Berkmar layup, Carlyle was back at the line and again converted both shots to put Milton back ahead by three.
The Patriots attempted two 3-pointers on their next possession to try and tie the contest, but both shots were missed. However, a Berkmar player got the offensive board after the second long-range shot and put it back up and in to cut Milton’s lead to 48-47 with 19 seconds left.
Carlyle was again fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, and again, the junior made both shots.
Milton’s Broc Bidwell, usually a prolific scorer for the Eagles, was held to just three points during the contest. However, the senior came up with one of the biggest plays of the night on Berkmar’s next possession, stripping the ball from a Patriots player. The ball careened to Carlyle, who was immediately fouled and headed back to the line with eight ticks left on the clock.
Carlyle made one of his two shots to give Milton a crucial two-possession lead.
The situation set up for a thrilling finish, but the exciting final minute ended on a bit of a dud, at least for the non-Eagle faithful. Berkmar was called for a travel on its possession, effectively ending the contest before Carlyle headed back to the free-throw line.
On his second shot with just a second remaining on the clock, Carlyle chucked the ball at the rim and ran off to begin the Eagles’ state championship celebration.
Carlyle led all players with 15 points, followed by Thornton and L.T. Overton who each netted 12. Overton added three blocks.
The state championship trophy provides the ultimate bookmark for the Eagles’ dream season. After a 2-2 start, Milton won 26 straight games to close out the year in which they were a staple atop the Class 7A rankings.
The Eagles are ranked No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps.
With Carlyle, Overton, Thornton and others set to return, Milton is likely to again be a title contender in the 2021-22 season.
Saturday’s matchup ended the high school careers of several Eagles players on the highest note.
Milton’s seniors, along with head coach Allen Whitehart, who took over the program in the 2017-18 season, compiled a 91-26 record with three straight region championships.