The third time’s the harm for Milano
Milano fell to Mumford for the second straight year in the Class A Division I Region IV championship game, sending the Mustangs to the state tournament in Austin this weekend for a second time
Mumford (38-0) will face No. 8 San Augustine (23-6) at 10 a.m. Thursday in the state semi-finals at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin.
The Mustangs reached the state title game last season, falling to Clarksville.
“To be going back to the state tournament means a lot,” said Mumford Coach Chris Sodek. “Our guys feel like they have some unfinished business.”
The other final will see No. 1 Dallas Triple A Academy (26-5) against No. 24 El Paso Harmony Science Academy (26-3).
To reach the regional title game, the Mustangs beat Port Aransas 73-53.
The No. 12 ranked Eagles defeated Weimar 50-38 in their semifinals game.
Milano head coach Brad Jones thought he had prepared his squad to win the regional title, but never imagined the team would shoot a dismal 28 percent on the day.
“I thought we had a pretty good game plan going into the game, but the shots just didn’t fall,” Jones said. “I though we’d have to hold them to the upper 30s to win the game. We came close. We needed to hit at least half of those shots that we missed.”
The Eagles were just two of 21 on three-point shots and 16 of 56 on field goals in the title game at a jam-packed Cougar Den.
Milano’s only lead at the beginning of the game came after senior Dominique Messer hit the front end of his free throws following a shooting foul. The Mustangs would pull ahead and never look back.
Mumford led 14-7 after the first quarter, but Milano tried to keep it interesting. With the Mustangs leading by as much as 11, Messer and junior David Jentsch put up four points each in a 12-7 Milano run.
The Eagles trailed just 26-19 at the break.
The teams each scored 11 points in the third frame. Mumford’s all came from junior Aubrie King who made 11 of his 17 points in that quarter. He was top scorer for the Mustangs. Mumford led just 37-30 heading into the final quarter.
Milano pulled within five with 2:17 left in the ball game, but a three point shot by senior Josh Sustaita and a quick rebound and run by the only senior starter on the Mustang squad pushed Mumford ahead by 10 and the game out of reach.
LaKendrick Hyson added 12 points and D ion Mack 11. Josh Sustaita added seven and Seth Smitherman four.
Sanders and Messer in their last game in Eagle uniforms led the their team 11 and 10 points, respectively. Messer added 10 rebounds and Sanders four assists.
David Jentsch added 10 points and Jordan Millar seven.
Senior Jacob Willingham is the other starter on the Milano squad, who never used a sub in the title game.
Saturday’s match up was the third time the Eagles and Mustangs had battled it out on the court, as they area District 25A opponents. The Mustangs beat Milano 51-42 at home on Jan. 22. It took overtime for Mumford to take down the Eagles 75-66 at Mustang Gym on Feb. 8.
Mumford were the district champions, followed by Milano in second place.
In all three games held at the regional tournament, games seem to be a bit aggressive, with referees not blowing whistles on obvious fouls and players wrestling around on the ground during loose balls.
Jones said it was a bit physical, but that he expected that at this point in the season.
“That’s how it is in playoff basketball. The further you go the more physical it gets,” Jones said. “The officials did not determine the outcome of the game.”
On Friday, the Eagles erased an early deficit to defeat the Weimar Wildcats 50-38 in the regional semifinals. T he t wo t eams h ad met Dec. 17 before district play started with Milano winning that game as well 62-35.
The Wildcats (13-12) jumped out early, using their outside shooting to go up 15-8 at the end of the first.
Milano then jumped out of the blocks in the second quarter, going on a 17-2 run in the final 6:13 of the first half. They were able to get a 27-20 lead by the break and never trailed again.
Willingham pumped it in from beyond the arc three times in the third quarter for nine of his 11 points, helping extend that Eagle lead to 40-26 at the end of three.
In the end it came down to fouls, where Weimar had 14 on the day, compared to just three for Milano.
The Eagles did well on the free throw line as well, hitting 10 of 14 from the charity stripe.
The Wildcats did win one positive stat battle, out rebounding the Eagles 35-32.
Messer led the team with 13 points and 12 rebounds against Weimar. Sanders had 12 points, with Millar contributing eight and Jentsch adding six.
The Wildcats were led by Torre Johnson’s 13 points, nine of which were from three-point shots.
Milano was led this year by seniors Messer, Sanders and Willingham. Jones said they are a special group who’s presence will be missed.
“Our senior boys are awesome, they have carried us this season,” he s aid. “ These g uys h ave w on almost 60 games in just two years. They will be missed.”
Jones feels bad he couldn’t get that trio to the next level.
“I was disappointed I couldn’t get these guys there. Our seniors deserve to be at the state tournament,” Jones said. “I apologized to t hem. I s hould h ave d one something different and couldn’t get it done.”
Jones will have experience in Millar and Jentsch returning and as some quickness in his reserve players and a couple of junior varsity players that should move up.
“We will be a lot smaller next year, but have got a chance to be successful.”