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Mustangs come within a game of advancing to Knight

They rally to beat Cleveland, but come up short in Fridays playoff game at fourth-ranked Lebanon


by: JAIME VALDEZ - Senior playmaker Karissa Delaunay goes on the attack in Milwaukies come-from-behind win over Cleveland.Intent on taking another step towards a trip to Knight Arena and the 2014 Class 5A State Tournament, Karissa Delaunay and Merrily Jones stepped it up a notch in the fourth quarter and rallied Milwaukie to a 49-46 come-from-behind win over Cleveland in a March 4 play-in game of the Class 5A high school girls basketball playoffs.

The Mustangs trailed 33-24 after Cleveland senior wing Antonia Washington cashed for a 3-pointer at the start of the fourth quarter.

But then the Mustangs began to take control, as they rallied around the heroics of Delaunay and Jones to out-score the visiting Warriors 25-16 in the final period and claim the spoils.

“My head was kind of out of it in the first half,” said Delaunay. “I knew we’d have to bring our best in the second half if we wanted to keep going.”

“It’s loser out now,” said Jones. “I remembered last year going down to Knight [Arena] and watching the team play. I want to get back there, and play. I didn’t want the season to end here tonight, on our home floor.... The crowd was great tonight!”

Delaunay and Jones both battled as if their lives depended on it in the fourth quarter of the play-in game with the Warriors.

Delaunay scored 12 of her 16 points in the final period, going 2-for-2 from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 at the charity stripe. The senior point guard also sparked the Mustang offense with six assists on the night.

Jones went 3-for-4 from the field in the final period, hitting two momentum-building 3-pointers and hauling down half a dozen rebounds. She scored a game-high 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers. And the 6-2 sophomore post claimed a career-high 18 rebounds, while rejecting three shots.

The Mustangs also got a big fourth quarter from sophomore guard Alexa Mulford, who hit two huge baskets in the fourth quarter and set up inside buckets by Delaunay and Jones with crisp passes.

Things looked grim for the Mustangs when Cleveland 6-2 star post Taylor Ristvedt turned a fast-break basket into a 3-point play, putting Cleveland back up by 9 points, at 38-29, with 5:53 to play.

But Delaunay was fouled as the Mustangs moved the ball up the floor and she calmly swished a pair of gifters, trimming the Warrior lead to 38-31.

Following a Cleveland miss, Jones hit a 3-pointer on the fast break, and the Mustangs were within 4, trailing 38-34.

The Warriors missed on an attempt from 3-point land.

Mulford found Delaunay open under the basket for an easy layup, and the deficit was down to two points, at 38-36.

Ristvedt scored on the fast break to make it 40-36 Cleveland with 3:54 to play.

The two teams traded misses; Jones claimed the rebound following the Warrior miss and fired the ball down court to Mulford, whose fast-break layup trimmed Cleveland’s lead to 40-38.

The Mustangs forced a turnover with their full-court press.

Mulford found Jones open under the basket for a layup, and it was all tied up, at 40-40, with 2:41 to play.

Jones rebounded a Warrior miss. And, with 1:46 remaining, Jones found nothing but net on a 3-pointer from the corner, and the Mustangs led for the first time since the opening seconds of the second half, at 43-40.

Jones rebounded another Warrior miss; Delaunay hit 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch, and the Mustangs hung on for the hard-fought 49-46 victory.

“This means a lot to me,” said Delaunay. “Being able to go to the playoffs with a new team, it’s awesome! I’ve never made it this far before.”

Delaunay noted that at her former school, Barlow, her team advanced to postseason play her freshman year, but lost in the play-in round.

“After losing two good players [senior Shelby Enevoldsen and junior Chloe Hester] to injuries and losing six seniors [to graduation], people didn’t think we’d be very good this year,” said Jones. “But we’re proving them wrong.”

The first half was hotly contested, with Milwaukie sporting its biggest lead of the night, at 14-7, when Jones connected on a 3-pointer. But the Mustangs missed their next six shots from the floor, and Cleveland closed the gap to 18-17 by the intermission.

Both teams struggled to get shots to drop much of the night. Cleveland was 20-of-66 (.303) from the field. The Mustangs made only 10-of-37 field goals (.270) in the first three periods, but they were 7-of-10 from the floor (.700) — with three 3-pointers — in the final period.

Ristvedt (17 points) and 5-11 senior forward Emily Rommel (13 points) paced the Warriors in scoring.

Cleveland, which went 10-2 and finished second in the PIL, finished the season with an overall record of 12-12 with the loss.

For the Mustangs, it was their 10th win in their last 12 games. The win advanced Milwaukie to a March 7 state playoff game at Lebanon, with a berth in the eight-team Class 5A State Tournament on the line.

The Mustangs didn’t fare as well in last Friday’s game with the fourth-ranked Lebanon Warriors, losing 39-28. It was the 12th straight win for the Warriors.

The Mustangs stayed close, but they faded in the fourth quarter, when Lebanon increased a five-point lead to 11 points.

Jones (10 points) was the only Milwaukie player to score in double figures.

Ellie Phillips, a 5-9 senior wing, paced the Warriors with 14 points.

With the win, Lebanon (20-5) earned a spot opposite fifth-ranked Bend (21-4) in the Class 5A quarterfinals at Eugene’s Knight Arena.

Milwaukie finished the year with an overall record of 15-11.



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