MILANO— After earning their first postseason win in a decade last season, the Milano Eagles basketball team is playing with more confidence.
"Expectations are high this season, not only from the starters, but from everyone on the team," Milano head boys basketball coach Robbie Robinson, in just his second season at the helm of the Eagles.
He was an assistant for two years prior to taking the head coaching job. This is his 22nd year in coaching and 12th as a head basketball coach.
He also had stints at Lubbock Cooper, Water Valley, Garden City, Ingram and Franklin before coming to Milano in 2006.
Milano finished 14-16 last season and second place in District 27-A behind Bartlett, earning the team's first postseason appearance since 2005. In the bi-district round, the Eagles defeated Shiner to earn the team's first playoff victory since 1999. They then fell to Mumford in the area round.
It was the first time since 1999 that the Eagles had defeated the Bulldogs in varsity boys basketball.
Milano returns four star ters from last year's squad, they include seniors Matthew Jentsch and Sam Walker, along w ith juniors Jaxson Robinson and Thomas Sanders.
Sanders was the 27A defensive most valuable player, while Walker was a first team all-district pick last season, and Robinson a second team pick.
Key losses to graduation were starter Dustin Callen, along with Tanner Gage, Mark Russell and Tennyson Guthrie.
The Eagle roster took another hit with the loss of junior Mayson Gibbons, who had to have knee surgery this fall due to injury in the first game of football season.
Seniors Jordan Hughes and Robert Strong look to be keys off the bench for Milano.
Four underclassmen join the varsity roster for Milano in sophomores Jordan Melton, John Jentsch and Alton Bryant, along with 6-2 freshman Dominique Messer.
Robinson said that stay ing focused and getting better every day as a team will be things his team will work on. The Eagles will have to rely on skills to beat teams as they are lacking in the height department.
"We really don't have a great deal of team height, but no matter how tall a player is, he is expected to do three things—hustle, rebound and play solid defense," Robinson said. "We 'preach' that all the time to the players and if they do those three things consistently then good things will happen for them and for the team. This is something that we stress every day in the gym to our players."
Thoughts of a possible district championship are on the minds of the Eagles and it is a goal well within reach. The taste of the postseason has definitely driven these players Robinson said.
He feels his team has what it takes to win and get one of the district's three playoff nods—the others going to Thorndale and Bartlett.
"The parts are there for us to have a promising season, it's going to take a few games to get all of those parts to click," Robinson said. "Having that playoff experience as the season begins and multiple returning lettermen with years of varsity experience are a big difference."
The Eagles are still waiting on those things to "click" as they lost the first two games of their season to Rosebud-Lott and Burton over the week.
In their home opener at Geneva Paceley Gym on Friday, Milano struggled with inconsistent shooting to fall 47-43 to Rosebud Lott.
The Eagles led after one quarter, but had fallen behind 25-20 at halftime. They brought it w ithin two at the end of the third, but were outplayed in the final frame.
Matthew Jentsch led Milano scorers with 15 points, followed by 12 from Walker. Robinson added six points, Sanders four, John Jentsch four and Melton two.
Milano's junior varsity boys moved to 1-1 on the season with a 45-34 win over Rosebud-Lott. Top scorers were Terry Gelner with 12 and Toby Sanders with 10.
On Tuesday, Nov. 17 the Eagles opened their season on the road to Burton, losing 43-37. Free throw shooting was the team's "Achilles heel", according to Robinson.
"We played pretty well for our first outing. The team's effort was great and our defense was solid for a first game," Robinson said. "Had we even made 50 percent of our free throw shots as a team, we probably would have won the game."
Walker had a big night with 19 points, followed by Matthew Jentsch with seven. Sanders put up five, Robinson scored four and Hughes contributed two points off the bench.
Milano's JV lost a close 43-41 game to Burton that night. Gelner had 14, Sanders 11 and Jacob Willingham 11.
The Eagle teams were to take on Brazos Christian in Bryan on Nov. 24 and hit the road again on Dec. 1 to take on Franklin.
Coach: Robbie Robinson (2nd
2009 record: 14-16
District record: 6-4 (second)
Returning starters: Sr. Sam Walker,
Sr. Matthew Jentsch, Jr. Jaxson
Robinson, Jr. Thomas Sanders
Key returnees: Sr. Jordan Hughes
Top newcomers: Soph. Jordan
Melton, Fr. Dominique Messer
Key losses: Jr. Mayson Gibbons
(injured knee during first game of
football season and out of sports
for entire school year), Dustin Callen
Last playoff appearance: 2009
Last district title: 1999