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Pioneers fall short in title chase, still playoff bound

Sandy will host a first-round game on Friday night


by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Karsten Short passes from his back and covering a loose ball during Fridays loss.

Sandy was poised to claim a share of the Northwest Oregon Conference title in the regular season finale, but Milwaukie had other ideas. The Mustangs won the league championship outright by knocking off the Pioneers 67-56, sweeping the season series between the two playoff-bound schools.

The Mustangs were the most athletic team in the conference throughout the season, and they ran all night against Sandy. By the time the third quarter hit, the Pioneers could no longer keep up.

Milwaukie trailed 29-26 at halftime, but the Mustangs erased the deficit in a hurry. Junior guard Tre’Shann Stone got things rolling by dropping a scoop-shot off the glass and through the nylon about two minutes into the half. That sparked a 14-2 scoring run, which Stone closed with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Stone had seven points during the run. He finished with a game-high 26 points and went 11-for-12 (.917) from the free-throw line. The Stone-fueled run put Milwaukie up by seven points with one minute left in the third quarter.

“It’s really tough to chase a team like that because they are so athletic,” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “When we were ahead or tied, they were a little more tentative. When we got behind, they knew they could attack.”

Sandy post Justin Adams tried to bring back the Pioneers single-handedly in the fourth quarter. Adams, who lead Sandy with 16 points, sank two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the period.

The Mustangs weren’t fazed.

They maintained their up-tempo style and continued knocking down shots. After every Sandy score in the final period, Milwaukie responded with points of its own, and Sandy couldn’t gain any ground. As was the case the first time the two teams played, Sandy was good, but Milwaukie was a little better.

“They are definitely a top team,” Adams said. “Anytime you get behind a team like that, it isn’t easy to make a comeback. We tried, but it just didn’t go our way.”

The key to Milwaukie’s dominant third quarter was the way it adjusted on the defensive glass. In the first half, the Pioneers hauled in numerous offensive rebounds which they converted into points.

Sandy’s offensive rebounding also turned into trips to the free-throw line when Milwaukie committed unnecessary fouls near the rim. The Pioneers took advantage and went 10-for-10 from the line in the first half.

Like all good teams, Milwaukie recognized the problem and eliminated it.

In the second half, the Mustangs re-committed themselves to boxing out and the offensive rebounds became scarce for Sandy. Likewise, Milwaukie tweaked the way it contested shots to cut down on the fouls. It worked, because the Pioneers did not attempt a single foul shot in the second half.

With its defense back on track, Milwaukie was able to pay attention to its shooting. It was then that the Mustangs went on their big run to take the lead, the game and the league title.

Even with the loss, Sandy finished eighth in the final 5A rankings to clinch an automatic playoff berth. The Pioneers will open the state tournament at home Friday.