Luck runs out for Eagles in playoff loss to Evadale
The No. 5 Milano Eagles were upset by a much taller Evadale Rebels team 48-35 on Wednesday night (March 2) in the regional quarterfinals at Wildkat Gym.
The Rebels (19-15) won their way through the weekend’s Region V tournament and will face Clyde Eula (35-2) in the semifinals of the Class A Division I state tournament at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Erwin Center in Austin.
Clarendon (24-6) and Tenaha (27-9) will face off in the other state semifinal set to tip off at 8:30 a.m.
Milano ends the year at 27-4 after posting one of the best seasons in school history.
“We did not play our best game of the year against Evadale,” Eagles Coach Robbie Robinson said. “They were extremely tall and long, the tallest team we had faced all season, with maybe the exception of Hempstead. Their two-three zone posed us some problems offensively and we just seemed to have difficulty getting into any offensive rhythm.”
The Eagles’ 35 points against Evadale was the least amount they had scored in a game the entire season.
Milano found itself down early with turnovers and fouls, but had pulled within two points, 11-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Unforced errors on the Eagles’ part continued to hinder them through the second quarter, and they found themselves down 21- 15 at the half.
Milano shooters got hot in the third quarter, outscoring Evadale 12-3 in the third frame and going up 27-24 at the end of three on a Thomas Sanders three pointer at the buzzer.
The Rebels would rally back late in the fourth using their overpowering size to jump ahead 37-30 with just over two minutes remaining.
Evadale had seven players on their roster standing at 6- 0 or taller, led by 6-7 senior Blane Dunigan.
Hitting just 27.2 percent of their shots on the night, Milano just couldn’t overcome the deficit in the final quarter. The Eagles were just 7 of 18 from the free throw line.
“We did not shoot well from the field or from the charity stripe,” Coach Robinson said. “We also had too many turnovers, both forced turnovers and unforced turnovers.
“ We played extremely good defensively, however. Limiting an opponent to only 45 points was outstanding and in most instances a defensive performance like that would have resulted in a victory. We are really proud of these guys.”
At several points during the game, play became very physical, at one time causing Evadale’s Shawn Totten to throw an elbow at Milano’s Jaxson Robinson after both had fallen going for a loose ball that had gone out of bounds late in the second quarter.
The Rebels’ fans were also very crude during and after the game with one parent being kicked out of the gym during the game.
At one point, Evadale’s Dunigan had to be restrained by his teammates from going after one of the three officials.
“ Faced w ith a tremendous amount of adversity in the game, I thought our team showed a significant amount of class and sportsmanship,” Coach Robinson said. “We stress sportsmanship and sometimes it’s difficult to practice it when one’s opponent does not. Our young men have character and play the game the way that it is supposed to be played.
“ They exhibited a great deal of composure in an intense ball game. They did not react negatively when a call went against them. They played ball. I told them in the locker room following the game that I would not trade a single one of them for anyone we have played all season long.”
Senior Sanders led all scorers with 19. Sophomore Dominique Messer was the Eagles top defensive player with eight rebounds and four blocks.
Deven Murphy and Adam Stark led the Rebels with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
Milano will lose five seniors off its roster, including starters Sanders and Robinson, along with reserves Terry Gelner, Alton Bryant and Mayson Gibbons.
Coach Robinson said that getting the chance to coach his son one last time is bittersweet.
“Jaxson has been in the gym with me at one time or another since he was three years old and it will be a little bit different not having him with me in the years to come,” Coach Robinson said. “I will miss him, but I think his teammates will miss him, too.”
The regional quarterfinal round was the farthest any Milano boys team had gone in the post season since reaching the regional final in 1997.
Evadale 45, Milano 38
MILANO—Thomas Sanders 7- 1-18; John Jentsch 2-3-7; Jaxson Robinson 2-2-7; Jacob Willingham 0- 0- 0; Toby Sanders 0- 0- 0; Dominique Messer 0-2-2; Jordan Melton 1- 0-2; Mayson Gibbons 0-1-1. TOTALS: FG 12 FT 7-18 3PT 4-17—38.
EVADALE—Deven Murphy 5-2-13; Brandon Bruce 1-1-3; Ryan Freeman 0- 0- 0; Blane Dunigan 3-3-9; Shawn Totten 1- 0-2; Adam Stark 2-5-10; Billy Nichols 0- 0- 0; Tyler Tucker 4- 0-8. TOTALS: FG 16 FT 11-24 3PT 2- 6—45.