Miller overcomes injured shoulder to lead Knoch to win
Austin Miller's right shoulder looked like a tattoo an NBA player might sport. A bright-blue, argyle-like pattern covered the top of his arm and clashed against his navy blue uniform.
But it wasn't a tattoo the Knoch junior guard was wearing. It was special tape meant to help keep a strained rotator cuff in place. And it wasn't an injured guard. It was a guard determined to get another shot at the No. 1 team.
Miller scored a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, and senior forward Dakota Bruggeman added 16 points to lead Knoch to its first playoff win since 2006, 52-40 over Mt. Pleasant in a Class AAA preliminary-round game Friday night at Highlands.
Miller has been wearing the Kinesio Tape for four straight games since taking a hard bump to the ribs, which rattled his shoulder in a 65-51 loss to Chartiers Valley (19-3) — the team Knoch (12-11) will face in the first round Tuesday.
“We like to say we are tied and tucked,” Miller said, referring to the team's having its shoelaces tight and shirts in before games. “We come to work. We had lost four of five. We were hungry. Now we get another chance to play Chartiers Valley.
“We will be ready for them.”
Knoch took control in the second quarter with a 12-0 run and continually fought off Mt. Pleasant (13-10), which took advantage of Knoch turnovers and scored in transition.
“If we come out early and our guards hit some shots, we're OK,” Knoch's first-year coach Ron McNabb said. “We could have taken care of the ball a little better at times, but we just wanted to get out of here with a win.”
McNabb, who has had a noticeable limp this season, had bio cartilage surgery in June to repair torn cartilage in his knee.
McNabb said he is just the third person in the country to have the procedure. He, too, has used the Kinesio Tape. And he, too, is a fan of Miller's shooting the ball.
“Austin is the heart of this team,” McNabb said. “He is very underrated. He is a tough kid. He was in a lot of pain when he took a blow to the ribs.”
Miller scored nine points in the first quarter, went scoreless in the second and then drilled three 3s in the third as Knoch gained a larger lead.
Mt. Pleasant cut the lead to six (26-20) by halftime, but the Knights went on an 11-2 spurt to push the lead to 37-22.
The Vikings never got closer than 10 the rest of the way.
“We talked about winning a playoff game for the first time in seven years,” McNabb said. “It means a lot to these guys.”
Bruggeman got most of his points on cuts to the basket and putbacks.
Ryan Gumbita scored 15, and Cody Monroe added 10 for Mt. Pleasant.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the Local Sports Editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.