Milano—ranked No. 14 in Class A—used a third quarter flurry to shake off some first half holiday rust and muscled past Rockdale 62-46 Friday afternoon at Tiger Gymnasium.
The Tigers—who open up District 18-3A play Friday at College Station—slide to 8-10 on the season after a 67-63 loss to LaGrange Tuesday night.
The 13-4 Eagles begin District 25A play Tuesday by hosting Snook.
The 6-foot-4 Messer patrolled the paint for a season-high 33 points while collecting 17 rebounds and swatting away three shots.
Fellow postman David Jentsch picked up the garbage for 11 points and five boards while passing off for six assists, all to Messer.
While Mitchell was 9-of-25 from t he fl oor a nd 3 -of-13 f rom behind the three-point arc, he tossed in 25 points (two below his average) mostly on drives to the basket.
The 6-foot point guard also led Rockdale with nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Milano was coming off a lessthan stellar performance at the Rosebud-Lott Tournament last weekend and first-year Eagle coach Brad Jones was concerned.
“I thought we were sluggish in the first quarter, but give Rock- dale the credit for that. They really outplayed us early on,” Jones said. “But for the last part of the second quarter and the entire third quarter we played some of our best basketball of the year. We went on a big run during that time and pretty much put the game out of reach by the end of the third quarter. “
On the strength of Mitchell’s three thefts for buckets and a long three from William Dean, the Tigers constructed a 12-8 lead after the first quarter as Milano wet almost four minutes without scoring.
It was Rockdale’s turn to go cold in the second quarter as the Tigers went over four minutes without a basket, while Messer worked inside for nine points— including two three-point plays— to provide the Eagles the lead for good, 22-19, at intermission.
Milano poured it on in the third quarter, outscoring Rockdale 23-8 for a commanding 45-28 lead with a quarter left to play.
Messer, who delivered 20 points in the second half, scored at will in the third quarter with 14 points including a thunderous dunk after a slick pass from Jacob Willingham to close out the period.
“We made a bunch of really good decisions with the ball and shared it well,” Jones said of the run that provided the lead. “I told my kiddos that we needed to make blocking out/rebounding our number one priority beginning with this game.”
With Messer gobbling up rebounds left and right, Milano battered the Tigers on the boards, 36-22.
“Up to this point we had been pretty lazy about blocking out and it had cost us a couple of times. Against Rockdale, I thought they responded to that message well. I was proud of our effort on the boards. I hope that we continue to rebound well.”
After Milano had constructed its largest lead (19) on three different occasions in the fourth quarter, Rockdale pulled within 56-46 with 1:06 remaining to be played, but would get no closer.
Rockdale struggled from the f loor, shooting 35 percent and was 5-for-22 from long distance.
The Tigers’ furious comeback fell just short in their 67-63 loss to LaGrange Tuesday night at Tiger Gymnasium.
Trailing by 19 points entering the final period, Rockdale sliced the lead to two with 30 seconds remaining after two straight Mitchell baskets.
Rockdale outscored LaGrange (11-5) 26-11 in the fourth quarter after trailing by double digits most of the contest.
“Again, this has been plaguing us all year,” said first-year Rockdale Coach Sergio Garcia. We haven’t been able to put a whole game together.
“We battled, we showed some heart. We just have to learn we can’t take any periods off.”
Mitchell recorded a double double with 23 points and 11 boards including an impressive breakaway dunk in the third quarter from the 6-foot- guard.
Dean turned in one of his best games with 16 points and six rebounds.
Darius Ford added 12.
TIGER TRACKS—Mitchell needs just 25 points to reach the Milano falls in final non-district warmup
Milano went to the Class 3A ranks for its final non-district opponent before starting 25A play with a 55-52 road loss at Giddings on Tuesday night.
The Eagles will open up league play on Friday when they host Snook at Geneva Paceley Gym.
“We had a couple of late turnovers and missed too many free throws to close out the game,” Milano head coach Brad Jones said. “Giddings is strong and athletic and made the plays down the stretch to win.” The Eagles were just six of 15 from the charity stripe.
David Jentsch led all Milano scorers with 15 points, with Dominique Messer adding 13. Messer also snagged 12 rebounds.
Milano grabbed an early lead and was up 25-22 at the half.
The Eagles open up district play on Friday and Jones knows the competition will be hard.
“There are a bunch of really good teams in our district so it should get pretty interesting over the next 10 games,” he said.