Top-ranked Milton overpowers rival Roswell

By Zach Shugan

ROSWELL, Ga. — The Milton boys basketball team continues to prove worthy of its No. 1 ranking, extending its win streak to 12 games Friday night as it cruised past longtime rival Roswell, 78-58.

The Eagles, who for the past couple years have typically been paced by five-star guards Bruce Thornton and Kanaan Carlyle, were led Friday night by two players who transferred to the school in the offseason.

Junior forward Kendall Campbell, a transfer from Meadowcreek, and senior guard Broc Bidwell, a transfer from West Forsyth, combined for 46 points in the victory for Milton.

“They’re both Division I recruits, so it’s clear they’re able to do that,” Milton head coach Allen Whitehart said. “But when you play with such dynamic guards like Kanaan and Bruce, you’re so used to seeing those guys do what they do. I was excited for them to be able to open up and really get loose tonight.”

The Eagles have won four straight games against the Hornets dating back to the 2017 season and have won 14 of 16 games against their longtime rival in the past decade.

Milton got off to a slow start in the latest edition of the North Fulton rivalry, allowing the home-team Roswell to take a 22-15 lead by the end of the first quarter. The Eagles quickly turned things around in the second quarter, though, starting on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 22.

Then, something happened that changed the course of the game, according to Whitehart.

Thornton was hit with an inadvertent elbow while playing defense, resulting in a gash on his forehead. The Ohio State commit left the game for the rest of the half to have the cut bandaged with butterfly stitches, and the blood was cleaned off the court.

Bruce Thornton, seen with butterfly stitches on his forehead, returned to the game in the second half to help Milton hold off Roswell. (Zach Shugan)

Perhaps more pertinent to the game, however, was the decision by the referees to call Thornton for a foul instead of the Roswell player who accidentally hit him. Whitehart, along with the Milton bench and parents in attendance, voiced their displeasure with the call, but it didn’t change the officials’ minds.

What it did do, however, was light a fire under the Eagles. By the end of the half, they led the Hornets by nine, 40-31.

“I think it kind of shocked us a little bit and pissed us off,” Whitehart said. “I’m not really blaming the officials, but it was a foul call on [Thornton] and he was the one who got his eye busted open. We were kind of drifting, and then boom, that changed the game.”

Later in the game, the situation repeated itself, except this time with Cam Walker. Walker was hit, blood spilled on the court and he became the second Milton junior to receive butterfly stitches from medical trainers during the game.

The only difference this time around was Walker didn’t receive a foul, unlike Thornton. Plus, the Eagles had already built a comfortable lead by that point, so they didn’t need the extra motivation.

With a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter, Whitehart took most of Milton’s starters out of the game. Shortly after, Roswell head coach Ty Phillips did the same.

Campbell couldn’t be stopped in the paint all night, finishing with a game-high 25 points to go with seven rebounds. Sophomore center L.T. Overton added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Milton forward Kendall Campbell (#23), ranked the No. 94 junior in the country by Rivals, holds college offers from Alabama, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and more. (Zach Shugan)

While Thornton and Carlyle, both guards, might be the two highest-rated prospects on the team, Milton showed its grown into a more complete version of the 2019 team that made it to the Final Four.

“I knew it coming into this year,” Whitehart said. “Even last year I said it early that we were a big away from being dominant. Games like tonight, it’s clear our bigs can really dominate a game.”

Milton also received a heavy dose of outside scoring from Bidwell, who finished with 21 points. The Campbell commit didn’t miss a shot all night, going 7-for-7 from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beating shot from near halfcourt.

With the win over Roswell, the Eagles’ record improved to 14-2 overall and 4-0 in region play.

The Hornets were led by sophomore Jase McCullough, who finished with 21 points and four rebounds. Junior twins Jackson Kemp and Mason Kemp added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

With the loss, Roswell dropped to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in region play. The Hornets play Jan. 16 in a non-region game against North Forsyth, and they return to region play Jan. 19 on the road at Alpharetta.

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