Sherwood beats Silverton to earn its spot at the tourney

by: DAN BROOD - TOURNEY-BOUND -- Players on the Sherwood High School boys basketball team gather following their Class 5A state playoff win over Silverton on Friday. The Bowmen will open state tournament play today in Eugene. SHERWOOD — The Sherwood High School boys basketball team had already achieved one of its lofty goals for the season.

So the Sherwood squad took aim at their at their next goal.

And, thanks to a swarming defense, a lot of determination and some spectacular play in crunch time by junior Ben Milligan, the Bowmen checked that goal off as well.

Sherwood, outscoring Silverton 11-0 in the final 3 minutes and 15 seconds of the game — with Milligan accounting for seven of those points — battled its way to a 41-31 win over the Foxes in a Class 5A state playoff game played in front of a large, loud crowd Saturday at Sherwood High School.

With the victory, the Bowmen advance to play in the Class 5A state tournament for the first time since 2008.

“This is real big for us,” said Milligan, who capped off the win with a steal and breakaway dunk coming with 47 seconds left in the contest. “This was one of our goals. First, we won league. Now we’re going to be in the final eight.”

by: DAN BROOD - BIG-GAME BEN -- Sherwood junior Ben Milligan scored seven points and had two steals in the final 3:15 of the Bowmen's 41-31 win over Silverton Saturday in a Class 5A state playoff game. “It’s big. It’s our goal every single year,” Sherwood senior post Jordan Kurahara said of reaching the state tournament. “In my sophomore year, we fell short. Last year, we fell short. We lost to Silverton. This year, we did it. It still hasn’t hit me yet, but it will be memorable.”

“This means the world to us,” Sherwood junior point guard Evan Kitto said. “It’s been our goal since Day 1. This was crazy.”

Silverton, the third-place team out of the Mid-Willamette Conference, finished its season with a final overall record of 16-8.

Sherwood, which won the Northwest Oregon Conference championship for its first league title since 2006, improved to 20-4 on the season with the victory. The Bowmen also advance to the Class 5A state tournament and will face Madison tonight (Thursday) in a tourney quarterfinal game starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene.

“This is big. We’re excited to be going to Eugene,” Sherwood senior forward Lucas Johnson said.

“Our first goal was to win league,” Kurahara said. “Then we wanted to go to Eugene. And, now, there’s still more to do. We want to do some damage there.”

But, earning that wanted trip to Eugene sure didn’t seem to be easy for Sherwood — not going up against a determined Silverton squad in Saturday’s state playoff tilt.

“It was a great game,” Sherwood coach Tony Merrill said. “To beat a team like Silverton is extra special. We have so much respect for their program.”

And Silverton came out ready to play. Making their first four shots from the field, including a pair of layups by sophomore guard Sam Roth, the Foxes sprinted out to an 8-1 lead just 3 minutes and 5 seconds into the contest.

The Silverton lead was at 13-8 after senior guard Ian Sucich converted a three-point play with 2:42 left in the first quarter.

But rest of the first half belonged to Sherwood — totally.

The Bowmen, getting a basket on a step-over drive by Kurahara followed by a pair of free throws by Milligan, after a steal, trimmed the margin to 13-12 at the end of the opening DAN BROOD - UP HIGH -- Sherwood senior Jordan Kurahara goes up to the hoop in the win over Silverton.

The Sherwood defense, with senior guard Keegan Lawrence seemingly providing pressure all over the court, didn’t allow Silverton to score a single point in the second quarter. The Foxes went 0 for 7 from the field in the period while also turning the ball over four times.

“Defense was key,” Kurahara said.

Meanwhile, Sherwood got a pair of three-pointers from Kitto, a basket by Kurahara off an inbounds pass and a free throw by Johnson to take a 21-13 halftime lead.

Kurahara scored the first basket of the third quarter to give the Bowmen a 23-13 advantage.

Roth then ended the Silverton scoreless span at 12:25 when he sank a 16-foot jumper with 6:17 left in the period. The basket seemed to ignited the Foxes. They scored eight more unanswered points following Roth’s bucket to tie the game at 23-23 with 3:13 left to play in the period.

Sherwood, getting another three-pointer from Kitto and four points from Johnson, was able to regain the lead, at 30-27 going into the fourth quarter.

Silverton got a pair of free throws by Sucich and a follow-up basket by junior Logan Munson to open the final stanza, giving the Foxes a 31-30 lead with 6:40 left in the game.

Sherwood, struggling to find its offensive touch, found itself still trailing by that one-point margin with less than 3:30 left to play.

But the Bowmen weren’t worried.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Kurahara said. “We just had to keep our composure.”

by: DAN BROOD - FROM LONG RANGE -- Sherwood senior Lucas Johnson takes a jump shot over a crowd of players during the Bowmen's state playoff win over Silverton.Composure, and a big dose of Ben Milligan.

Milligan came up with a steal and layup to give Sherwood a 32-31 lead with 3:15 left to play. Milligan then went 1 for 2 from the foul line to up the margin to 33-31 with 2:11 remaining.

After Munson missed on a three-point attempt, with Milligan snaring the rebound, Johnson was fouled and he made both of his ensuing free throws to make the score 35-31 with 1:08 remaining.

Milligan then came up with his steal and breakaway dunk to make it a six-point game, at 37-31, with 47 seconds left to play.

“I’d only had three dunks all season before that,” Milligan said. “So that felt pretty good.”

“That dunk capped it off,” Kitto said. “Right after he did that we were all saying ‘we did it.’ I think Ben was our MVP today.”

“Ben Milligan gave us some great energy,” Kurahara DAN BROOD - CUT IT DOWN -- Sherwood High School junior Tommy Paul takes his turn in cutting down the net following the Bowmen's win over Silverton.

The Bowmen got a pair of free throws from both Milligan and Kurahara in the final 17.3 seconds of the contest to wrap up their game-ending 11-0 run and secure the 41-31 victory, as well as a berth in the Class 5A state tournament.

“I was so happy,” Johnson said of his emotions as the final horn sounded. “I was just smiling.”

“Accomplishment,” Kurahara said. “I worked my whole life for this. It was nice to see it pay off. I’m excited. This means everything to us.”

Milligan led all scorers in the contest with 11 points. He also had five steals in the win. He scored seven of his points, in addition to having a pair of steals and a rebound, in the decisive final 3:15 of the game.

“Ben was phenomenal,” Merrill said.

“I was just saying ‘this is not going to be our last game,’” Milligan said. “I didn’t want the seniors to go out today. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team.”

Johnson added 10 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals for the Bowmen. Kurahara had nine points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Kitto scored nine points, coming on three three-point baskets.

Sherwood, as a team, made 11 of 28 shots from the field, shot at a 15-for-20 clip from the free throw line and had just seven turnovers in the contest.

The Bowmen also gave credit to their enthusiastic home crowd.

“It was the loudest I’ve ever heard it here,” Kurahara said.

Roth and Munson led Silverton with eight points apiece.

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