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Late spurt carries Mustangs to win in battle of top-10 teams

Sandys nine-game win streak ends after Fridays 66-58 loss at Milwaukie


by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Hunter Rowe gets a shot off while falling to the court during Fridays 66-58 loss at Milwaukie.

MILWAUKIE – Friday’s much-anticipated showdown between Sandy and Milwaukie was as good as advertised. Behind a raucous crowd, the Mustangs defended their home floor and edged the Pioneers, 66-58.

“It was actually a really nice atmosphere,” Sandy senior center Justin Adams said. “I like coming into arenas like this where the fans for both teams are loud and into it.”

Milwaukie’s overwhelming athleticism allowed it to score, and score quickly in the first half. After every rebound, the Mustangs wanted to run. They got buckets close to the hoop and got to the free-throw line often.

On defense, Milwaukie was extremely physical and pressured the ball where ever it went.

The Mustangs would have blown it open by halftime if it weren’t for Sandy senior guard Jacob Groom. In the first half, Groom drained five 3-pointers and had 17 points. He finished with a game-high 22 points. Even with his sharp-shooting, the Pioneers still trailed by seven points at the break.

To open the second half, Milwaukie stretched its lead to double digits, but Sandy came storming back. Two deep 3-pointers by senior Blake Robison energized the Pioneers and they went on a 13-2 run to take a 40-39 lead at the midway point of the third quarter.

For the next eight minutes, all hell broke those. In that span, the lead changed hands three times and the fans on both sides were so loud that conversation was impossible. Adding to the chaos was a string of missed calls by the officials, affecting both teams. Neither coach went more than 30 seconds without pointing out a blatant error by a referee.

All those factors came to a head shortly after the clock dipped below four minutes. The Mustangs held a 54-53 lead and had possession. Just as Sandy coach Jason Maki and Milwaukie coach Kyle Bracy were laughing to each other about the officiating, Milwaukie’s C.J. Hubbard advanced the ball past half-court. Sandy’s Hunter Rowe was whistled for a foul. Hubbard then swung around, elbow first, to create breathing room between himself and Rowe. Rowe threw his hands up in protest and a technical foul was called – on Rowe.

“The ref said that Hunter put two hands on him and pushed him,” Maki said. “Hunter plays with a lot of emotion, and we need that. At that point, the ref thought we went over the line.”

The personal and technical fouls were Rowe’s fourth and fifth of the contest, and he had to sit out the concluding minutes. After Rowe’s fouls, Milwaukie scored six straight points to take a seven-point lead.

Sandy then had to foul late to stop the clock. Wisely, the Mustangs got the ball to sophomore Jazz Johnson, who made all eight of his foul shots in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with a team-high 17 points. The Pioneers never got closer than six points again.

While the technical foul call was crucial, it wasn’t the reason for Sandy’s demise. The Pioneers killed themselves with atrocious free-throw shooting. They managed to get into the bonus with 3:50 left in the third quarter, but couldn’t make enough freebies when they got to the line. Sandy made just 10 of its 21 foul shots, while Milwaukie made 18 of 24.

“I told them they really need to concentrate on free throws in practice,” Maki said. “I asked if they really want to say ‘we lost a conference championship because we didn’t make free throws.’”

Sandy and Milwaukie each finished the first half of league play with one loss, but the Mustangs currently hold the tiebreaker after Friday’s win. The two schools square off again in the last game of the season at Sandy.