Brownstown center Josh Miller is the kind of player that will stick to the gameplan no matter what.
And on most nights, the gameplan calls for the 6-foot-3 senior to rebound, defend and contribute a basket here and there – so long as he adheres to the ‘two-dribble limit’ imposed on him by coach Adam Bussard.
But the gameplan changed a bit Friday night, wisely calling for a guy nicknamed ‘Moose’ to get as many touches as possible against an undersized Ramsey team featuring just one player over 6 feet tall.
And, true to form, Miller followed the gameplan to a T, resulting in career night in the Bombers’ 66-55 win over Ramsey.
Miller poured in 31 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and came away with three steals. But more importantly, he helped the Bombers (10-7) hold off the relentless Rams on their home court. Bussard insists the latter is all Miller cares about in the big picture.
‘He’s a true team player,’ Bussard said. ‘He comes out and doesn’t care if he scores 30 or zero, as long as the team wins.’
And with the victory, Miller’s team surpassed its win total from all of last year, a big relief considering the Bombers had dropped four of five coming in.
‘It’s really big for these guys and big for me to get it out of the way,’ Bussard said. ‘I don’t think many people predicted us to get eight wins, probably. But I told them Tuesday at Stew-Stras that we needed to get No. 10 and get it buried.’
But Ramsey refused to make it easy.
The Rams kept the game at their preferred breakneck pace throughout the first half, only to find themselves trailing 26-20, due in large part to 7 of 33 shooting from the floor (21 percent).
Junior point guard Joey Keppler was having a particularly rough night, hitting just 1 of 12 prior to intermission.
But Keppler found his shot in a big way during the third quarter, scoring all 17 of his team’s points to keep the Rams in the game.
‘He’s a heck of a player,’ Bussard said. ‘We were hoping to keep him somewhere under his average, but a kid like that, over 32 minutes, is eventually going to shake lose and put a couple in.’
Brownstown countered with the inside duo of Miller and Jared Winters, as the 6-3 post men had their way with Ramsey’s smaller defenders, combining to score all of the Bombers’ 18 points during the third quarter.
Still, Ramsey found itself down just seven, 44-37, entering the final frame, despite second-leading scorer Andy Carter sitting out most of the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul earlier in the half.
Carter immediately sparked his team upon returning at the start of the fourth quarter, nailing a 3-pointer to spark a quick 7-0 Ramsey run.
After a Keppler jumper, Carter came up with a steal and found Kevin Otto for a transition layup that tied the game at 44 with seven minutes to go.
But the Bombers countered with a familiarly effective fashion, as Winters found Miller in the paint for a go-ahead bucket that started a decisive 13-4 Brownstown run.
A majority of Winters’ game-high eight assists set up Miller. The sophomore added 16 points and 13 rebounds, as Brownstown simply dominated in the paint.
The Bombers held a lopsided 45-21 rebounding edge, helping them overcome 25 turnovers.
‘They’re just big and strong,’ Ramsey coach Nick Casey said. ‘When we tied it up, coach Bussard had them pound the ball inside to the big guys, and we just couldn’t stop it.’
After struggling throughout the game at the charity stripe, the Bombers hit 9 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. The Rams went cold right about the time Brownstown heated up from the free-throw line, resulting in a deceptively decisive final.
‘It just kills us, because we don’t have an inside game,’ Casey said. ‘When things go bad, you’ve got to have somebody inside you can go to, and we don’t have that.
‘We’re going to live by the outside shot and die by it. We died by it tonight.’
Still, both coaches were impressed by the Rams all-out effort up until the final buzzer.
‘They play their butts off every night, most the time,’ Casey said. ‘And we’re so little, that’s only way we can play.’
‘Coach Casey’s got those kids playing hard,’ Bussard said. ‘They’ll run through a brick wall for him. I wish I could get my kids to buy into it as much as his have, but he’s been here longer, so hopefully we can develop that over a couple years.’
Keppler wound up scoring 24 of his 30 points in the second half, while Carter, a fellow 5-7 guard, added 13.
‘Those are two little guards that are pretty hard to stop,’ Casey said.
Brownstown 15 11 18 22 – 66
Ramsey 10 10 17 18 – 55
Brownstown scoring – Miller 14-18 3-5 31, Winters 6-15 4-10 16, Goldsboro 2-4 6-6 10, Kramer 1-1 5-6 7, Robbins 0-3 0-0 0, Rhodes 0-3 1-7 1, Tackett 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 23-45 20-36 66.
Ramsey scoring – Keppler 9-23 8-10 30, Carter 5-12 2-4 13, Fields 1-4 0-1 2, Johnson 0-0 2-2 2, Otto 4-4 0-0 8, Kircher 0-5 0-0 0, McCloskey 0-2 0-0 0, Meachum 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-64 12-17 55.
3-point goals – Ramsey 5 (Keppler 4, Carter 1). Rebounds – Brownstown 45 (Miller 13, Winters 12. Turnovers – Ramsey 14, Brownstown 25.