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Nonetheless, the Mustangs remain competitive against the best 5A and 6A teams in the state.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Milwaukie junior Cali Denson looks for room to operate during her team's 42-37 loss to Sherwood at Sherwood High School on Thursday, June 3.The Milwaukie girls basketball team is determined to take its shot.

The Mustangs, regardless of their opponent, are going to take their best shot in the pandemic-shortened 2021 season.

Milwaukie — just 18-30 overall with no playoff appearances in the previous two years — did just that on Thursday, June 3, when it battled Class 6A Sherwood down to the wire before finally falling 42-37 at Sherwood High School.

"I thought we pulled together as a team from our last loss, and even though we were outmatched a lot of the time, we all came together and used our skill and (played as a) family," said Milwaukie senior wing/forward Emmaly Welch, who finished with 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting from the field and a 4 of 4 day at the foul line, along with five rebounds and one assist. "We just need to pull through the next time and finish our shots."

"Definitely, (the key is) … rebounding and staying in it in our heads," said junior guard Cali Denson, who led all scorers with 24 points on 7 of 25 shooting (with three 3-pointers) and a 7 of 13 day at the foul line, along with two rebounds two assists and one steal. "Playing against taller opponents — we have tall girls ourselves — sometimes we forget to box out on the rebound and get the ball so we can get down on offense."

With the loss, the Mustangs fell for the second straight time and fell to 4-4 overall (they're also 4-2 in Northwest Oregon Conference play). The Lady Bowmen, meanwhile, won for the sixth straight time and improved to 6-2 overall (they're also 5-1 in Pacific Conference).

"We were talking about playing as a team because we trust each other," said Sherwood freshman post Ava Heiden, who finished with 23 points on 9 of 14 shooting from the field and a 5 of 6 day at the foul line, along with eight rebounds, one assist and one block. "When we do that, everyone shoots, everyone makes it. We just play basketball as a team."

"We don't have very many returning varsity players … (so) we've just got to take hold of the game and keep it calm and say 'Hey. We've got this. We can do this,'" said junior point guard Laney Snelling, who added six points on 2 of 9 shooting (with two 3-pointers) from the field and an 0 for 1 day at the line, along with five rebounds, one assist and one steal. "I think Ava really helps us. She's a freshman, but she gives us the confidence that 'Hey. Anyone can do this.'"



Sherwood 42, Milwaukie 37

Sherwood led 7-3 early on, but saw Milwaukie close the first quarter on a 12-2 run to take a 15-9 advantage. Along the way, the Mustangs saw Denson hit four of her final five shots in the period (including one "three") and teammate Zoe Wood bury another 3-pointer while Sherwood hung close behind Heiden's seven points.

"Our energy on the court — we were everywhere," Denson said. "We were moving around really well and our bench energy really helped us get our heads into the game."

Milwaukie pushed its lead to 18-11 midway through the second quarter on a pair on Denson free throws, but Sherwood finished the half strong. The Lady Bowmen used a 10-3 edge in the final 4:13 of the second period to close within 22-21 at the break, getting a pair of free throws from Sophia Carleton, four straight points by Heiden and back-to-back baskets from Mandie Jensen.

The third quarter was a back and forth affair that featured four ties before Sherwood finally re-took the lead at 34-31 when Snelling took a pass from Joley Sproul a buried a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 6 seconds to go in the period.

Snelling hit two "threes" and Heiden two baskets in the quarter, while Welch knocked down 3 of 4 shots to score six points in the frame for Milwaukie.

Sill down 34-31 at the start of the fourth period, Denson hit a pair of free throws and knocked down another 3-pointer — a pull-up from the left side on the fast break — to tie the game for the last time at 36-36 with 3:44 left to play.

But Sherwood responded with a Heiden baseline jump shot and a Heiden inside basket assisted by Jensen, then a jump shot in the key from McKenna Rump to take a 42-37 edge with 1:31 left on the clock.

Sherwood's defense did the rest to secure the win, with Milwaukie managing just one Denson free throw in the game's final three minutes.

"As the game were on, we started to work better together and really slowed down the game and made really good passes," Heiden said.

"I just think we were playing basketball," Snelling said. "We were looking for whoever was open. Ava was open on the backside and Mandie Jensen was open on the backside and we were just keeping it calm."

On their side of the court, the Mustangs vowed to learn from their loss and keep moving forward.

"Our hustle was good until the end where we got in our own heads and the easy shots weren't falling," Welch said. "But I'm sure if we played them again, the next time we could get them."

"We're playing the toughest schedule right now, (against the best Class) 5A and 6A teams and playing almost all 6A teams right now," Denson added.

Jensen finished seven points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the win.


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