Bitter taste of playoff loss fueling Eagles’ redemption
MILANO—There’ s still a bitter taste in the mouths of Eagle basketball players when you mention last year’s 48-35 regional quarterfinals loss to Evadale that ended the then No. 5 ranked Milano’s season.
Evadale advanced all the way to the state tourney, but that’ s beside the point.
That is helping f uel them for the new season and a new chance at redemption.
The Eagles have played just two games thus far due to the success and playoff run by the school’s football team.
Still, people are noticing this lengthy squad and have them ranked No. 17 this week in statewide polls.
“Every time this group walks on the floor they expect to win,” head coach Robbie Robinson, now in his fourth year at the helm said. “ That is a great asset when every player on the team has that mentality and works every day to live up to that expectation. I don’t really have to remind t hem about what it takes to win, they want to win and know what it takes to win.”
Dominique Messer and John Jentsch, both 6-4 posts, will be the keys to Milano’s success this year.
Messer, a junior, led the team in points (12.2), rebounds (8.0) and steals (3.4) per game last season.
Jentsch, a senior, averaged 10 points and 6.1 rebound per game last season.
Messer was the district’s offensive MVP as a sophomore and Jentsch a first team selection last year.
The Eagles also return starter Jordan Melton, a senior. The 5-9 guard was a first team selection last year and was Milano’s top three- point shooter last year, making 46.7 percent of his shots beyond the arc.
Other key returnees are juniors Toby Sanders (6-2), a first team selection last season, and Jacob Willingham (5-10), an honorable mention pick.
Newcomers to t he va rsit y roster are senior Truitt Jones (6-2) and sophomores Jordan Millar (6-0) and David Jentsch (5-10).
“I think having guys like John and Dominique, along with Toby and Truitt make us a difficult match-up because as a team we are fairly tall,” Coach Robinson said. “I also feel that the majority of the team has experienced success, not only in district play, but the playoffs, too, will be a great advantage for us.”
Milano’s biggest challenge will be replacing the experienced leaders and ball handlers they had on the court last year in now graduated seniors Jaxson Robinson and Thomas Sanders. They were both four year starters at guard.
Robinson was last year’s district most valuable player and Sanders an honorable mention pick.
“Although, I think that the players on this year’s team will mature as the season progresses and do well w ith additional game-experience,” Coach Robinson said.
Other losses to graduation for Milano included Mayson Gibbons and Alton Bryant, both second team all- district picks, and honorable mention selection Terry Gelner.
The Eagles are picked to win 27A again, but Robinson said the team is still easing into the season.
“ We are taking each game one-at-a-time and continue to improve with each practice and each game,” he said. “Our goals are to win district and make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Milano will have some competition as they look for that third straight district title. Thrall and Holland look to vie for the other postseason slots.
“Playing on the road in Thrall is always a challenge. That gym is a cracker box and extremely hot,” Coach Robinson said. “ Thrall seems to play us fairly well over t here and beat ing them in Thrall is always an accomplishment.”
Georgetown Gateway, Granger and Bar t let t, round out t he Eagles’ other district foes.
Last season’s playoff appearance was the fourth for the Eagles in the last 12 seasons.
Milano’s bi-district win over Shiner in 2009 was the first playoff victory for the boys’ basketball program since 2000.
Milano boys have reached the regional round three previous times before last season’s appearance, the most recent being 1997 when they lost in the regional finals to eventual state champ Moulton. The Eagles also reached regionals in 1951 and 1977 under Coach Charlie Martin.
The Eagles kicked off their season on Nov. 22 with a 77-14 routing over Brazos Christian.
And that was with just two practices under their belts for Milano.
Messer led t he team w it h 24points,16reboundsand seven steals. John Jentsch also recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 boards.
On Tuesday night, the Eagles defeated the Rosebud-Lott Cougars 51-32 at Geneva Paceley Gym.
The teams were tied 9-9 after the first quarter, but Milano was able to find its groove and push the pace of the game and had jumped out to a 26-11 lead by the half.
John Jentsch led the team with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. Messer had 20 boards to go with his nine points and to blocks.
Milano will participate in its first tournament of the year this weekend at Dime Box. The Eagles went undefeated in all three of its tournaments last season.
Milano w ill t ravel to face Class 3A Caldwell on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The Eagles were originally scheduled to play No. 9 ranked Burton, but the Panthers are still in the state football playoffs.
Coach: Robbie Robinson (4th season, 65-27) 2010 record: 27-4 District record: 10- 0 (champions) Key losses: Jaxson Robinson, Thomas Sanders, Mayson Gibbons, Alton Bryant, Terry Gelner Returning starters: Sr. John Jentsch, Sr. Jordan Melton, Jr. Dominique Messer Key returnees: Jr. Toby Sanders, Jr. Jacob Willingham Top newcomers: Sr. Truitt Jones, So. David Jentsch, So. Jordan Millar Last playoff appearance: 2011 Last district title: 2011
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