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Trophy hunters

Mustangs bag their first trophy in 56 years

EUGENE - Saturday, March 11, was an historic day for Milwaukie High School's boys basketball team.

The Mustangs on Saturday made school history, defeating Crescent Valley 58-47 in the fourth-place final of the 2011 Oregon Class 5A High School Boys Basketball Tournament.

It's the first time a Milwaukie High School boys basketball team has won a trophy at state in 56 years, and only the third state-tournament trophy in the sport in school history.

Milwaukie's boys basketball program won its only state title in 1954, when the Mustangs went 27-1. And the Mustangs placed fifth at state in 1955, when they finished 25-4.

This year's squad finished with an overall record of 23-3, the third-best record in school history.

The strong showing at state followed on the heals of a league co-championship with Wilsonville, the first league boys basketball title for Milwaukie since 1991.

This is the first time since the 1998-99 season that Milwaukie has had a winning season in boys basketball.

The Mustangs were ecstatic following Saturday afternoon's trophy presentation.

'This means a lot,' said Milwaukie senior Kenny Spencer. 'Nobody thought we could make it this far. It's a change for Milwaukie. We've got a winning program.

'And now that we're winning, kids are going to want to come to Milwaukie. They will no longer come through our youth program and then switch to other schools, like Clackamas and Oregon City. Milwaukie is no longer going to just be a stepping stone for other programs.'

'It's incredible to be a part of this,' said Milwaukie senior Andrew Marquez. 'It's the start of change that will go beyond high school basketball, to the youth program and to the community as a whole.'

'It's just amazing,' said Milwaukie senior Bobby McVeigh. 'It shows how hard work and teamwork and dedication can pay off….

'I was the worst player on the team my freshman year, and now I'm a part of the fourth-best team in the state.'

'For a lot of the guys on this basketball team, basketball is our life,' said Milwaukie senior Jordan Delestatious. 'We spent every day in the summer working hard, trying to get better so we could make it here….

'We've made a lot of people proud, and we've earned a lot of respect for Milwaukie. It feels good to be the team that brings back success to Milwaukie and to our town.'

'Words can't explain it,' said Mustang senior Jaleel Kindred. 'It means a lot to see our team put Milwaukie back on the map.'

'We've been teammates since fifth grade and we've worked our tails off,' said Milwaukie senior Tyler Johnson. 'And to be able to do this here, as seniors, it feels so good.'

This was Crescent Valley's third straight year to postseason, and the senior dominated Raiders had plans of taking home a trophy. They had 10 seniors on their 12-player state tournament roster, including 6-8 senior Peter Hammond and 6-6 senior Adam Hastings.

But accustomed to being out-sized, the Mustangs more than held their own with the Raider big boys, making things tough on them with their aggressive zone defense and with their aggressiveness on the backboards.

Milwaukie led much of the way, although the Raiders stayed close.

Tyler Johnson's rebound bucket at the start of the second quarter made it 9-5 Milwaukie and Keynan Middleton hit a 3-pointer just before the half to make it 22-16 Milwaukie at the break.

The Raiders battled back to knot the score at 22-22 and 24-24. But that's where the Mustangs made their move.

Consecutive fast-break baskets by McVeigh made it 28-24 Milwaukie.

And Michone Hopkins' 3-pointer with 4:19 left in the third upped the gap to 31-24.

Delestatious added a lay-up off a pass from Spencer for a 33-26 Milwaukie lead.

And when Middleton scored a reverse lay-up on a baseline drive with 2:24 remaining in the third, the Mustangs were in command, leading 35-26.

Geoffrey Charapata's two free throws as the third period was winding down, made it 39-29 Milwaukie heading into the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs then made 13-of-16 free throws in the final period to hold the Raiders at bay.

Team play was pivotal in the Mustang victory. Milwaukie had five players put points on the scoreboard in each of the final three periods.

Hopkins (17 points), Middleton (12 points) and Spencer (9 points, 5 assists) were Milwaukie's top point-getters for the game. Middleton was 5-of-10 from the field, with two treys.

Hopkins, Spencer and Middleton led Milwaukie to a 36-31 edge in rebounding over the taller Raiders, with 24 rebounds between them.

Delestatious (3 steals) headed the defensive effort.

Milwaukie dropped a 49-43 heartbreaker to Northwest Oregon Conference co-champion Wilsonville in the 5A State Tournament quarterfinals. The Mustangs then took care of business, defeating Woodburn 64-39 in the fourth-place semifinals. Wilsonville went on to defeat Bend 58-42 for third place, after losing to eventual state champion Corvallis 59-56 in the semifinals.

'For a lot of us seniors, we feel like we've come up a little short,' said Delestatious, fighting back tears. 'We felt all year we could play with anybody. Our coaches said if we put one complete game together, we could beat anyone. We feel good about what we've done, but we're also feeling a little disappointed, because we never did put that one complete game together.'

'We've started something here that's going to keep going in basketball and in other sports as well - this year, next year and forever,' said Mustang senior Nate Nichols. 'We've put Milwaukie back on the map.'

'I really wanted that first place trophy,' said Hopkins, a junior who made the tournament's first team of all-stars. 'This just means us juniors and sophomores are going to have to get at it and get back here next year. If we work hard in the off-season, I think we have a good chance….'

Hopkins (16.3 ppg) and Middleton (13.3 ppg), another junior, were Milwaukie's top scorers at this year's state tournament.

'Hopefully they'll get back here,' said Johnson, who plans to attend Oregon in the fall. 'And I'll be here to watch them - front row.'