Young Bomber bursts onto the scene
BARNUM — With an expensive, yet sharp, mouth full of bright orange and hot pink braces, Emily Miletich makes her way to the basketball court wearing her uncommon mouth guard.
The little, unfashionable, clear piece of rubber, though, seems to be the only guard to stick with the Barnum eighth-grader.
Miletich scored 14 points, including a game-sealing 3-pointer in front of her team’s bench late in the second half of the Bombers’ 48-35 comeback victory over Polar League rival Moose Lake-Willow River last Thursday in Barnum.
Miletich, a 5-foot-9 forward, is as productive as 13-year-olds come. Playing her favorite sport since second grade, Miletich made her first varsity start last week, scoring 7 points in a first half led by Barnum 22-17, while adding 7 more in the second, including the right-handed shooter’s left-corner trifecta making it 42-35 late.
“I hesitated, but as soon as I released it, I could tell it was in,” said Miletich, who smiled widely toward her nearby bench after her 20-foot dagger. “I just try to do whatever I can to help everyone do better — to try to help us succeed.”
Barnum (4-1) has succeeded, beating all but one of their foes thus far. Despite their lone loss — a 54-49 overtime setback to state-storied Braham Saturday — the Bombers, who moved up from Section 7A to 7AA this year, have been a tough newcomer.
The neighboring Rebels (3-1), previously unbeaten, found that out the hard way, watching the Bombers burst on a 23-5 run to end the game and avenge ML-WR’s lopsided 50-33 victory over Barnum a season ago.
“Barnum’s a good team, no doubt about it — they’re going to be fighting for that section championship,” said second-year ML-WR Coach Joe Adamczak. “We’re a young team. Nobody wanted the ball in their hands to take control. We have to learn from it and stay positive.”
“We got in foul trouble,” said Rebels junior forward Adri Jusczak, a left-hander who had a team-high 13 points despite several of ML-WR’s mass of fouls leading to 24 Barnum free throws to the Rebels’ 12. “It’s always tough to lose to a rival. We just have to work harder. I think we play them in January or February — hopefully we get them then.”
Miletich sure hopes that isn’t the case, though many say the smiling student-athlete is as friendly and kind as she is skilled and talented, even compared to some Bomber greats.
With her height and ability to take the ball to the basket, current University of Minnesota Duluth standout Katrina Newman comes to mind, back when she was that age. However, Miletich, though confident, puts her team first.
“I’m happy, but I don’t brag — I love basketball,” said Miletich outside the gym last week. “It’s what coach says.”
Coach Katie Moench, in her second season, spoke of her “sparkplug” forward with praise, noting even as their youngest starter, “she’s starting to become a leader,” for all.
“She’s a perfect kid to coach,” Moench said. “She does whatever you ask, is very likeable and just fits right in.”
“It wouldn’t be the same without Emily,” added teammate Lauren Hultgren, one of four Barnum seniors happy to have Miletich in the mix. “She’s fearless on the court.”
Fellow Bomber senior Daron Mainville passed the 1,000 career-point milestone Tuesday. The 6-foot-2 center led all scorers with 20 points last week, 16 coming in the second half in which she played a majority with four fouls and an injured ankle.
The night, however, belonged to the girl in her first start.
“I was intimidated last year,” admitted Miletich, a varsity role player as a seventh-grader. “[Last week] was exciting. Definitely something I’ll remember.”
Miletich, who also plays volleyball, said she will likely play for Moench again this spring, on the softball team.
“I hope she does,” said Moench, her first season ahead.
If so, expect the mouth guard to come with her, too.