Eagles using last year’s playoff loss as motivation to redeem

Three returning starters fuel Milano’s quest
BY MARIE BAKKEN
Reporter Staff Writer

MILANO—It is still a bitter memory in the minds of returning players and their coach—a last minute, two-point loss in what should have been a long postseason run for the boys’ basketball program.

But a lit tle bit terness has invoked a lot of determination and the Milano Eagles look to build on that experience and make a deeper run in the postseason this year.

Head coach Robbie Rob- inson, in his third year at the helm, has three returning starters and three key reserves from last year’s squad to help the team get t hat one step further.

“The guys are using the Somerville loss from last season as motivation to improve and make a deep run in the playoffs,” Robinson said. “We all felt that we should have beaten them last season and are using the two-point loss as a reminder that we must bring our ‘A game’ every time we take the court.”

Robinson Robinson That area round loss to Somerville came after the Eagles were co-district champions with Thorndale, now in 2A, and blew away the Bulldogs in a tiebreaker game to claim the district’s top seed.

Milano also reached the postseason in the 2008-09 season, the first since 2005, finishing second in the district behind Bartlett.

They earned the school’s first boys basketball playoff win since 1999 with a bi-district victory over Shiner. They were beat out in the area round that season by Mumford.

This year’s district, 27A Division II, is much of the same, with Thrall, Holland, Bartlett and Granger. Newcomer Georgetown Gateway taking Thorndale’s place.

“We expect to win district,” Robinson said. “We’ve added some tough non-district opponents to the schedule to better prepare us for the rigors of district play.”

EAGLE FILE Coach: Robbie Robinson (3rd season, 38-23) 2010 record: 24-7 District record: 10-1 (co-champions)  Key losses: Sam Walker, Matthew Jentsch Returning starters: Sr. Jaxson Robinson, Sr. Thomas Sanders, Soph. Dominique Messer Key returnees: Jr. John Jentsch, Jr. Jordan Melton, Soph. Jacob Willingham, Sr. Mayson Gibbons Top newcomers: Soph. Toby Sanders, Sr. Terry Gelner, Sr. Alton Bryant Last playoff appearance: 2010 Last district title: 2010 EAGLE FILE Coach: Robbie Robinson (3rd season, 38-23) 2010 record: 24-7 District record: 10-1 (co-champions) Key losses: Sam Walker, Matthew Jentsch Returning starters: Sr. Jaxson Robinson, Sr. Thomas Sanders, Soph. Dominique Messer Key returnees: Jr. John Jentsch, Jr. Jordan Melton, Soph. Jacob Willingham, Sr. Mayson Gibbons Top newcomers: Soph. Toby Sanders, Sr. Terry Gelner, Sr. Alton Bryant Last playoff appearance: 2010 Last district title: 2010 Milano finished 24-7 last season.

The Eagles lost four seniors off last season’s team due to graduation, Sam Walker, Matthew Jentsch, Jordan Hughes and Robert Strong. Walker was the district’s offensive MVP, while Jentsch was a second team selection.

“Losing Matthew and Sam from last year’s squad is big. Both of them were great rebounders and provided steady defense for us,” Robinson said.

The experience the roster is returning w ill be key in the Eagles’ success. Returning starters include seniors Jaxson Robinson (the coach’s son) and Thomas Sanders, along with 6-3 sophomore Dominique Messer.

Robinson and Sanders were both first team selections, while Messer was named newcomer of the year in the league.

Others returning from the 2009-10 varsity roster include juniors John Jentsch and Jordan Melton, sophomore Jacob Willingham and senior Mayson Gibbons.

Jentsch and Melton were both named to the all-district team in 09-10, with Jentsch receiving a second team nod and Melton an honorable mention.

Gibbons missed court time the entire season with a severe knee injury sustained in the first 2009 Eagle football game. He was named a district honorable mention as a sophomore.

Newcomers to this year’s varsity are seniors Terry Gelner and Alton Bryant, who did very well on the Eagles junior varsity last season, as well as sophomore Toby Sanders.

“Jaxson and Thomas are steady performers and give the team a great deal of stability. John and Dominique continue to get better and will be welcome additions to the mix,” Robinson said. “Add Jordan, Jacob and Toby, along with Terry, Mayson and Alton and we feel that we can even be better this season.”

With last year’s success Robinson knows one of the challenges this year is to live up to the expectations.

The Eagles reached as high as No. 23 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class A Division II poll.

“We work every day in practice with a purpose,” Robinson said. “We stay focused and strive to improve individually and as a team.”

Milano’s other advantage on the court, besides its experience is they play as a team and with depth.

“All of the guys get along with one another. They like each other and ‘pull’ for their teammates,” Robinson said. “Our depth will be a plus for us because all of them can play. Unselfishness and multiple returning lettermen will definitely be an advantage for us.”

Milano opened its season on Nov. 23 at Brazos Christian where they came away with a ‘rusty’ 47-36 win. John Jentsch led the team with 15 points, six rebounds and four steals. Jaxson Robinson had 14 points, nine steals, five rebounds and three assists.

The Eagles’ junior varsity also won its season opening game at Brazos Christian 44-30. David Jentsch led the team with 13 points, joined in double digits by Justin Grimes with 12 and Truitt Jones’s 11.

“We hope to make a deep run in the playoffs, work as a team and to cement the bonds that good teams all seem to have,” Coach Robinson said.

Tuesday

On Tuesday night, the Eagles had their season home opener against 2A Franklin and came away with a 48-43 win.

The two teams played even through the first half, tied 23-23 at the break.

Milano was able to keep the game close in the third despite numerous turnovers. In the fourth they found their rhythm and came away with the win.

Thomas Sanders led the team with 13 points, followed in double figures by John Jentsch with 12 and Dominique Messer with 10. Jentsch led the team in rebounds with seven.

Jaxson Robinson was helpful with five points to go along with his five assits.

The team will play in the Dime Box tournament over the weekend and then travel to Burton for games on Tuesday, Dec. 7.


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