Mustangs stumble at crunch time

EUGENE - The Milwaukie Mustangs left it all on the floor in their Class 5A State Boys Basketball Tournament opener on March 9, but came up short, dropping a 49-43 heartbreaker to Northwest Oregon Conference co-champion Wilsonville.

The Mustangs battled to the end, but couldn't get their shots to drop at crunch time. Milwaukie attempted seven shots from the field inside the final six minutes of the game, and missed them all.

The game was tight all the way, with Wilsonville leading 11-7 at the end of a quarter of play, the Cats on top 19-18 at halftime, and Milwaukie leading 33-30 heading into the final period.

Wilsonville 6-7 senior Seth Gearhart turned hot from the field early in the fourth quarter, scoring four straight baskets to put the Wildcats on top for good.

Gearhart rebounded his own miss at the 7:36 mark to trim the Mustang lead to one.

He then followed up a pair of Milwaukie turnovers with a jumper and a 3-point basket for a 37-33 Wildcat lead.

And following a Mustang miss, Gearhart scored a lay-up, and Wilsonville was in the driver's seat, leading 39-33 with 5:18 to play.

Milwaukie closed the gap to 39-37 with 2:58 remaining on sharp free throw shooting by Tyler Johnson and Geoffrey Charapata. But that was as close as the Mustangs could get, as the Cats answered Milwaukie misses with enough free throws to salt the game away.

The outcome might have been different had not Mustang big men Keynan Middleton, Kenny Spencer and Tyler Johnson not gotten into foul trouble trying to slow Gearhart.

Middleton and Spencer both fouled out with the Mustangs still very much in the game, and they took Gearhart with them.

Gearhart led all scorers with 19 points, doing much of the damage a distance from the basket. The Cat big man was 7-of-12 from the field, with three 3-pointers.

Michone Hopkins paced the Mustangs, hitting 6-of-10 shots from the floor, including three 3-pointers - for 15 points.

Johnson (5 rebounds) came off the bench to lead Milwaukie to a 27-25 edge in rebounding.

Jordan Delestatious had three assists and three steals in the losing effort.

The game was a tiebreaker for Wilsonville and Milwaukie, which tied for first place, with 13-1 records, in NWOC play.

With the win, Wilsonville advanced to a winner's bracket championship semifinal game with Corvallis.

The loss put Milwaukie in a consolation semifinal game with Mid-Willamette Conference runner-up Woodburn.

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