After giving up the first basket of the game, the Mustangs lead the rest of the way to win qualifier

PAMPLIN MEDIA: DAVID BALL - Milwaukie guard India Gultry goes wide along the baseline for a three-point play against Hood Rivers Hannah McNerney in the Mustangs 35-33 win in the 5A qualifier game.

Play-in qualifier

Team Score
Milwaukie (14-11)
Hood River (10-14)

The Milwaukie girls basketball team built a 14-point lead late in the third quarter then held its breath down the stretch to secure a 35-33 win over Hood River in Tuesday night's 5A qualifier — a game that wasn't decided until an Eagles' 3-pointer glanced off the rim at the buzzer.

Milwaukie junior guard India Gultry could not be stopped on her way to a game-high 17 points. She highlighted her night early in the second half by swinging wide on a drive along the right side, stretching the ball out in right hand as she went into the air and sank a 6-foot fadeaway from the baseline. She was fouled on the shot and converted the free throw for the three-point play.

Not long after, she spun through the lane and tossed up floater that took five tiny hops on the heel of the rim and looked for a moment like it would come to a rest at the back of the basket before rolling forward and trickling through the net.

On the team's next trip down the floor, Gultry pulled up for a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and the Mustangs had their biggest lead of the night at 30-16.

Hood River called a timeout.

"I was trying to get to the rim — just put on one move and go by people," Gultry said.

The loser tonight was done for the season.

Hood River wasn't going to go down without a fight.

The Eagles battled back to within a bucket late in the game, but missed chances to pull in front on three straight possessions.

"We got lackadaisical with the lead and stopped running through our offense and made some sloppy passes," Milwaukie coach Kevin McElroy said.

But the Mustangs came through in crunch time, effectively moving the ball around the perimeter and peeling precious seconds off the clock. When the time dipped under a minute to play, Hood River amped up its defense and put a double team on Milwaukie's Ariana Sanchez near the 'M' logo at center court. Sanchez deftly sent a pass to Alev Ersan near the sideline, and she was left with an open path to the hoop.

"We did a great job of spreading the court, and I saw a wide lane in front of me," Ersan said. "It was a chance to extend the lead and be a little more comfortable."

She was fouled on her way to the basket and converted the three-point play to make it a two-possession game with 0:48 on the clock.

Hood River stayed alive when Barrett Ihde scored on a put back with 18 seconds left.

But the Eagles had two fouls to give before they could sent Milwaukie to the free-throw line. That process allowed the Mustangs to take half the time off the clock.

Hood River got what it wanted out of the foul game — a Milwaukie miss.

That gave the Eagles one last chance.

Hannah McNerney found herself pinned along the sideline before looping a pass across the court with three ticks left. For a moment, it appeared that the horn would sound before the pass found its target. But Hood River's Haylee Baker made a clean catch in front of the Eagles' bench and released a 3-point shot a blink before the buzzer.

The fate of both teams hung with the spinning ball that clipped the rim and bounced off.

"I'm not going to lie — there was a little bit of luck in this one tonight," McElroy said.

Milwaukie (14-11) advances into the 5A bracket and will travel to No. 1-ranked Marist Catholic (21-3) for a first-round game Friday night.

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Look for expanded coverage in next week's March 7, print edition of The Clackamas Review.

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