Milwaukie coeds compete with the big girls at Gresham

The Milwaukie Mustangs turned more than a few heads Dec. 26-28, when they went 3-0 and claimed first place in a high school girls basketball tournament at Gresham.

The unheralded Mustangs upset eighth-ranked Crater 48-46 in the tournament championship game, after advancing through wins over big-school teams from Barlow (52-36) and Reynolds (43-41). It was the first loss for the Class 6A Crater Comets, after 10 straight wins to start the season.

“We still have a long way to go, but we’re starting to put some pieces together,” said Milwaukie coach Kevin McElroy. “[The girls] are playing more team ball. They’re starting to recognize the attributes of their teammates and they’re putting themselves in a position to succeed.”

Gaining a lot of notice on offense at Gresham was 6-2 sophomore post Merrily Jones, who would have played varsity as a freshman but sat out her freshman year because of a knee injury.

Jones paced the Mustangs in scoring in all three Gresham tournament games, scoring 16 points against Barlow and Reynolds and burning the nets for 20 points in the final with Crater.

Jones was 8-for-14 from the field, with four 3-point baskets in the upset of Crater.

“Merrily’s gaining in confidence and coming unto her own,” said McElroy. “She’s one of those players who has the ability to score inside and out, and at 6-2, it puts a lot of pressure on defenders to guard her.... She’s a good passer as well.”

Jones was 4-of-9 on 3-point attempts in the win over Reynolds, and she had three assists in that game. She collected seven rebounds, rejected three shots and made three assists in the contest with Barlow.

McElroy said that Chloe Hester and Skyler Hampton played pivotal roles in the Crater game. They drew the assignment of defending 5-11 post Courtney Stetzer and held the Comet star to just six points.

“They defended her tough and didn’t let her get set,” McElroy said of Hester and Hampton. “She’s a player who can easily go off and score 20 points, but they kept her out of her comfort zone and she struggled all night.”

McElroy said that Barlow transfer Karissa Delaunay played her best game in a Mustang uniform in the Crater game, assisting on seven baskets and corralling seven rebounds.

“It was a breakout game for Karissa,” McElroy said. “She did a great job, both handling the ball and finding open people.”

Senior Shelby Enevoldsen, the only returning letterman from last year’s Mustang varsity, scored just four points in the Crater game, but her final basket was a huge one. The 15-foot baseline jumper, taken at the final buzzer, gained the Mustangs the 48-46 victory.

The three wins in the tournament at Gresham came after a 0-4 start to the 2013-14 season. But the Class 5A Mustangs have had one of the tougher schedules in the state. Their early losses came at the hands of Class 6A teams from Westview (54-19), Centennial (38-17) and Jesuit (47-41), and from Hermiston (54-24), which is ranked No. 2 in Class 5A.

The Mustangs were to play Class 6A teams from Tigard and Canby this week in their final tuneups for Northwest Oregon Conference play. They begin conference play next Tuesday, when they play Wilsonville on the road.

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