Milano-Mumford matchup strains fans allegiances
The Milano-Mumford matchup Saturday in the regional finals at the luxurious Cougar Den presented more dramatic possibilities than a Mexican soap opera.
I can’t imagine how difficult it was for those kids to play in that game.
Just 27 1/2 miles apart, this saga began three years ago when long-time Milano basketball coach Alvie King was hired to start up the baseball program at nearby Mumford, which spent $2 million on a baseball diamond.
King took his basketball prodigy son Aubrie with him where upstart coach Chris Sodek was building a basketball power and both Kings fit right in.
Adding to this year’s circumstances is the fact that Milano dumped Mumford out of the playoffs last season on a dramatic last-second shot.
King’s father Alvie called Saturday’s matchup, his “worst nightmare”.
Aubrie King and Milano star Dominique Messer are close, with Messer having spent time in the King household and on their backyard basketball court.
They had battled before, but not with this much on the line.
Before the opening tip, King and his “brother” Messer shook hands and smiled at each other as if to say, “here we go.”
After the game, they hugged.
While Milano struggled on offense and fell behind by 20, King and his teammates came out smoking, nailing 8-of-11 three pointers and shooting 67 percent from the field.
The 6-foot-6 King collected 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, just missing out on his second consecutive triple-double in the regional tournament.
Messer and John Jentsch had 11 points each as the Eagles twice cut that 20-point cushion in half.
After the final buzzer, Messer draped a towel over his head and crouched on the floor, completely drained, mentally and physically.
Messer and Jentsch led the Eagles to a school record 32-2 record.
Mumford will enter the state tournament as the only unbeaten team, 36-0.
“It means everything to go to state,” Aubrie King said. “We thought we had a chance last year. We wanted to do it for our seniors this year.”
Hand it to Milano fans for some good old fashioned sportsmanship. When the younger King was introduced before the game, most applauded loudly. When he was cutting down the victory net after the win, most stood and cheered.
Both Milano and Mumford fans mingled under the basket after the game as Mumford players cut down the net.
If I had to guess, there will be a large contingent of Milano folks sitting in the Superdrum Thursday morning at 10 a.m., proudly wearing the maroon and gold and imagining what might have been.