Mustangs Finish Strong

Alex Harding driving to the hoop last weekend in Crescent City [Photo by Mindi Contreras]

The Miranda Junior High eighth grade boys basketball team finished the season within 2 points of winning the championship at Crescent City’s Jaycees Middle School Tournament, the pinnacle of junior high hoops competition on the north coast.

Having set just getting to the tourney as the ultimate goal for the season, for the Mustangs to nearly bring home the banner was a terrific accomplishment.

Going into the tourney with a 14-14 record and a few other strong showings in local tourneys, the Mustangs were placed in the B-1 division. There were forty-eight 8th grade teams from all over northern California at the event, with the B-1 bracket in the middle of the pack.

Cameron Messenger taking care of the ball last weekend in Crescent City [Photo by Mindi Contreras]

The Mustangs faced Trinidad in the first round last Friday night and won easily 67-45. Alex Harding led all scorers with 19 points, Jason Truscott had 12, all in the 4th quarter, and Sean Hassall-Hass and Graham McConnell each had ten.

On Saturday morning the Mustangs faced Rio Dell, with whom they had split the earlier two games in the season. Rio Dell plays an up-tempo game, “which is fine with us,” said head coach Taylor Morrow.

Down 26-19 at halftime, the  Mustangs roared back to outscore Rio Dell 42-19 in the second half to win 61-45. Harding again led all scorers with 20, and made two 3-pointers and went 3 for 3 from the line in the fourth quarter. Hassall-Hass had 15, and McConnell and Riley Gallagher each had 11. Gallagher drained three 3-pointers in the third quarter to get the momentum going for the Mustangs who had three players in foul trouble through the second half.

Graham McConnell at the free throw line last weekend in Crescent City [Photo by Mindi Contreras]

The win put the Mustangs in the championship game against Redwood, a local Crescent City team from Fort Dick. The evenly matched teams were closely knotted throughout the early game with momentum see-sawing, giving Miranda a two-point edge at the end of the 3rd quarter. “We made a few mental errors and got a little rattled,” said Morrow. “We played a little tight.”

While the Mustangs never stopped playing hard, they could only score 6 points in the final quarter to Redwood’s 10. They had a chance to win with a 3-pointer at the buzzer but the shot bounced off the rim and away. The final score was 48-46.

McConnell led Mustangs scorers with 19 points and Cameron Messenger had eight. McConnell, Messenger and Harding all were named to the all-tournament team.

“We accomplished everything we set out to accomplish this season.” said Morrow. “We were one shot from  making history, but it was still a great game.”

Morrow had coaching help from Jesse Page whose “input was always on point” and from Chris Contreras who was a “great contributor to the team.” He is grateful for Mindi Contreras who kept the book and took photos and Collett Fenske also kept the book.

Riley Gallagher protects the ball last weekend in Crescent City [Photo by Mindi Contreras]

“With this team I was excited about the way they met every challenge, from practice to games, all season,” Morrow said. “When you set lofty goals for a group of players it isn’t often that a team really lives up to its potential the way these guys did. We really grew as a family and in our commitment to each other. I look forward to seeing what this group will do in the future.”

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