Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk on the moon, soar like an eagle or string notes together like Lindsey Buckingham?
Racine Horlick’s Marquise Milton has some idea.
A 5-foot-11 senior standout who entered Friday’s important Southeast Conference game at Indian Trail tied for the 11th-highest scoring average in the state at 26.6 points per game, Milton had already erupted for a career-high 53 points against crosstown rival Racine Case earlier this season.
Friday, in what started as a back-and-forth shootout between two teams vying for third place in the league standings and a first-round home game in the WIAA Division-1 tournament beginning in two weeks, Milton wrote splendid prose with his right hand by scoring 32 of his game-high 42 points in the second half as the Rebels broke away from a 41-41 halftime deadlock to prevail 84-76.
For the guests and their diminutive sharpshooter, it was Paradise Found.
“It’s a blessing,” said Milton, who drained his last seven shots from the field, six of them from downtown and sank 7-of-8 free throws to close the door. “I put in work all offseason. My teammates helped me get open. They were finding me on every pass. I was comfortable with all my shots and I was letting it fly.”
Indeed, it was one of those nights when everyone in the gym felt like every shot was going to fall. Those groans you heard coming from the IT bench whenever he took aim emanated from coach Al Anderson.
“He was on fire tonight,” said Anderson, whose squad slipped to 12-8 overall and 8-6 in league play.
“Obviously, we gotta get out and guard him when he’s hitting from that deep. But he’s so good with the basketball, you get out and guard him (and) he’s gonna penetrate on you and either get himself a shot or get someone else a shot.”
After focusing on the latter for much of the first half, making 4 of the 7 shots he took, he certainly concentrated on the former in the second half.
“This was a big game because we were tied for third in conference with ITA (actually, a half-game behind),” said Milton, whose team improved to 8-5 in league play and 9-12 overall. “This is a big win going into the seeding meeting (tonight). They gotta look at (the Rebels’ season-series sweep of IT) and give us a seed that we’ll be comfortable with.”
In the meantime, the result left Anderson and the Hawks feeling very uneasy about their probable postseason path.
“If we would have pulled it out today, split with Horlick (and) with a win at (Racine) Park and a win versus Central, we could have gotten anywhere from a 6 to a 7 seed,” said Anderson, whose squad was led by 26 points from its own ball-handling blur Ezra Stargell, who scored 17 in the opening half as the Hawks battled to a 41-all tie. “Now with the loss, we’re looking at anywhere from a 7 to a 9 depending upon how the room votes.”
With the Big 8 having 10 teams and part of the Hawks’ sectional, Anderson isn’t terribly hopeful that things will fall Indian Trail’s way despite those hallmark victories over the Falcons and Panthers. Still, he takes great solace in the notion that none of the programs out west have a leading man as luminescent as Marquis Milton.
“I don’t think they have anyone like Milton in that conference,” he said with a hearty laugh that was equal parts awe and relief. “At least we sure hope not. He was extremely special here tonight.”
Indeed, as Milton displayed time after time after time, there exists a place that mere mortals often never visit. Call it The Zone.
“It’s amazing,” he said with starry eyes. “The hoop just feels big to me. Once I get my eyes on the target, I just let it go.”
Friday, just about everyone in the house knew where the ball was headed from there.