Whitehart said the team and school are still trying to recover.
“There’s no training manual for this,” Whitehart said. “It’s day to day. You have a community that is shaken. You can’t make sense of it. You just try to cope and love the kids you have as much as you can and let them know you’re there for them.
After that opener, a win, Milton dropped his next contest against Pebblebrook 64-47 and would lose again a week later to Berkmar. They are among the top contenders Milton must ultimately defeat to defend his Class 7A title in March.
One of Milton’s team managers, LT Overton, was delayed joining the team because the football team played until December. His return has been a boost both physically and emotionally, Whitehart said.
Overton, best known as a five-star defensive lineman in football, returned for the team’s trip to the City of Palms tournament in Fort Meyers, Fla., where Milton started with a victory over Calvary Christian (ranked No. 3 nationally) and lost in competition to national powerhouses Montverde Academy and IMG Academy.
“When we added LT after football, it calmed us down a bit,” Whitehart said. “It gave us our full identity, not just half. This was probably the turning point. We are lucky that he wants to practice both sports.
Milton still has the top three players in his 2020-21 Championship squad.
One is Bruce Thornton, a 6-foot-2 point guard and four-year-old starter who signed with Ohio State. He is the No. 1 senior prospect in the state and one of the top 50 national players.
Another is Kanaan Carylyle, a 6-2 combo guard and three-year starter who signed to Stanford this month. Carlyle is the consensus No. 30 prospect nationally among juniors.
Then there’s Overton, a three-year-old basketball starter who would be a major Division I basketball player except he’s the most nationally drafted defensive player among juniors. He is a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive lineman.
“The path [those three] understanding what it takes to win at different points in the game is amazing for players of this age,” Whitehart said. “They are all selfless guys willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater needs of the team.”
Whitehart then provided examples of how everyone picked up the games. At the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions in Missouri, Thornton averaged 25 points and was according to Whitehart the best player in the tournament.
Carlyle, under bad weather for part of that event, then scored 25 goals in Milton’s last game against Camden, MaxPreps’ No. 11 team nationally. In a regional game last week against Etowah, Milton won 63-55 with Overton scoring their side’s last 11 points.
Chase Cormier, a senior transfer from Greenforest Christian who committed to Northeastern, and Seth Fitzgerald, a 6-4 junior, are also starters. First off the bench are 6-8 senior Michael Feinberg and 6-0 freshman point guard Avery White.
The rest of Milton’s schedule is now mostly made up of local opponents. Milton, 12-7 overall and ranked No. 4 in 7A, has a three-game lead in the standings and is ready to defend his championship as the No. 1 seed if the Eagles close hard.
Whitehart hopes the toughest part of the season is behind him and that big-game experience will see his team through.
“We joke as coaches that when you’re in these really big games, the popcorn comes out different,” Whitehart said. “This whole scene is just a little bigger. I love the fact that we were there and won on that stage. It was part of our planning philosophy, to amplify it so we could be ready again. ”