Playing a preseason schedule that includes the top 6A teams in the state, the Mustangs aim to prove themselves the best in 5A

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Sophomore talent Jazz Johnson (32) goes on the attack in Milwaukies preseason game with Jesuit. The transfer from Benson scored 15 points, as the Mustangs gave the defending state Class 6A champion Crusaders a run for their money.It would be difficult for Milwaukie High School’s boys basketball team to top their past two seasons — two league co-championships with Wilsonville, fourth place at state in 2011 and second place at state last year. But the Mustangs plan to do just that.

“I believe we have the top talent in the state, 5A and 6A,” says Milwaukie point guard Jazz Johnson, a transfer from Benson who gained PIL all-league recognition last season as a freshman.

“I think we’re just as good top-to-bottom as last year,” said Milwaukie senior wing Aubrey Daschel-Lloyd. “I think that once we jell, we can be just as good as last year, if not better. Our goal this year is the state championship.”

“[Our goal is the] state championship,” echoed senior wing C.J. Hubbard.

“Nothing less,” said Johnson.

“We’re probably more athletic top-to-bottom,” said Milwaukie coach Kyle Bracy. “And we have more depth. We can play a lot more guys.... What we lack is experience playing together. The chemistry is not quite there. We’re a work in progress.

“None of the transfers played with us in summer ball. The first time we were all together was our first day of practice [in November].”

The Mustangs aspirations are not “pie in the sky.” There are five transfers on this year’s 11-player varsity roster, and, although they’ve played together for only a few weeks, the Class 5A Mustangs have been holding their own with the top Class 6A teams in the state in preseason. They’ve had arguably the toughest preseason schedule of any Oregon Class 5A team, playing defending state Class 6A champion Jesuit, 2012 Class 6A quarterfinalist Central Catholic, Class 6A Tigard, Class 6A Grant, which was ranked No. 1 in the state in last week’s coaches poll, and Madison. Jesuit and Central Catholic were ranked second and third respectively in the 6A coaches poll.

After digging themselves an 11-0 hole to start the game, the Mustangs lost to Jesuit by just nine points, 63-54. They were within three points of the defending state champs at one point near the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

The Mustangs defeated Tigard 63-60 and they routed Madison 64-46; they fell to Central Catholic 70-50 in a contest that was closer than the final score might indicate.

And they battled top-ranked Grant tough last Friday in an 84-71 loss.

“I told our AD I wanted a tough schedule, but I didn’t expect to be playing the top 6A teams in the state,” Bracy said. “But that’s okay. You’ve got to play the best to become the best.”

The transfers new to the team include: seniors Richard Ramsey (5-11 guard, Jefferson) and Kendrick Bourne (6-2 wing, Benson); juniors TreShann Stone (6-1 point guard/shooting guard, Jefferson) and Tony Bruno (6-1 guard, Lake Oswego); and sophomore Jazz Johnson (5-11 point guard, Benson). Ramsey and Bourne were Milwaukie’s top offensive skill players in football this fall.

Rounding out the roster are: seniors Aubrey Daschel-Lloyd (6-3 shooting guard), C.J. Hubbard (6-5 wing), Henry Morris (6-9 post), Trevontae Anderson (6-0 wing) and Thomas Nisbett (6-6 point guard/forward); and junior Tyler Spencer (6-4 wing/post).

Daschel-Lloyd and Morris were starters on varsity last year and Hubbard was the first player off the bench. Spencer was also a varsity letterman. Nisbett and Anderson move up from last year’s jayvee team.

The Mustangs have had a balanced attack on offense and they’ve played aggressively on defense in preseason.

Johnson has been electric, taking the ball to the basket against double teams for a team-leading 14.2 points per game average. He scored 19 points against Grant, 15 points in the Jesuit game, and a team-high 13 points against Central Catholic.

Hubbard has averaged 13.2 points through the Mustangs’ first five games. He scored a team-high 17 points in the Mustangs’ season opener with Tigard and a team-high 20 points in the Jesuit game.

Stone has averaged 10.6 points. Bourne (10.2 ppg) scored a team-high 18 points in last week’s rout of Madison and a team-high 21 points against Grant; Stone tallied 16 in the rout of Madison.

Although — because of their super tough schedule — the Mustangs are off to a 2-3 start in preseason, they were still ranked eighth in the OSAA Class 5A RPI rankings through play last weekend.

“If our guys can come together and trust each other, and build some chemistry, I think we can be just as good as we were last year,” Bracy said.

But the Mustang cage boss cautioned, “It’s going to be tough [to match last season’s accomplishments]. There are some really good 5A teams out there....

“That’s why we front-loaded our schedule. You aren’t going to see any 5A teams that are better than Jesuit or Central Catholic.”

Bracy said he expects the Northwest Oregon Conference to be tough from top to bottom.

“Sherwood will be tough,” he said. “And St. Helens will be right up there. They bring a lot of players back. Sandy has a lot of seniors and Putnam’s going to be tough. When you get to league you can’t take a night off, because anybody can beat anybody on a given night.”

“I think it always goes through Wilsonville and Sherwood,” Daschel-Lloyd said. “Sandy’s going to be good. But we have to show up every night. We’re going to have targets on our backs. People see second in the state, and they’re going to come at us that much harder.”

The Mustangs play Class 6A Canby on the road this Friday. They close out the preseason next week, when they travel to Silverton for a tournament, playing Silverton at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Woodburn at 5 p.m. on Friday.

League play begins Jan. 8, when the Mustangs battle Wilsonville on the road. The Wildcats will have revenge on their minds, having lost to Milwaukie 59-41 in the semifinals of last year’s Class 5A State Tournament.

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