Millennium High School’s dream of sweeping the basketball championships came up short.
Though the girls roared to a state title, the boys were upset.
The Millennium girls powered past Sunrise Mountain 59-30 in the 5A championship last week, scoring its second straight state title.
To start the game, Sunrise Mountain played fast and moved the ball up the floor quickly in transition. The result was a competitive quarter, and the Tigers led just 15-12 after the first period.
“They got out and ran the floor really well to start the game,” Millennium coach Courtland Rojeck said of the Mustangs, “And we didn’t do it too well.”
But, Millennium settled down and showed why it was the defending champion, starting out the second period on a 16-2 run by dominating the paint on both offense and defense. Even on missed shots, the Lady Tigers came up with offensive rebounds, resulting in more scoring opportunities.
The Tigers pulled ahead and never looked back. A buzzer-beating three-pointer by Tiger sophomore Trayanna Crisp made the lead 40-18 at the half.
Millennium’s depth of solid defenders forced the Mustangs into turnovers and tough shot attempts, while their rebounders limited defensive possessions to a single shot. The lead was 30 heading into the fourth quarter and the teams played with a running mercy clock.
“I think the biggest thing was it’s always great when you see the joy and excitement on the girls face,” coach Courtland Rojeck said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to win a state championship for the second straight year, but when the buzzer finally runs out and you finish the year as the state champions, it’s really cool to see the excitement of the girls and like all the realization of all the hard work they put in throughout a year. And it’s nice to finish on such a high note.”
Rojeck pointed to the experience of two of the seniors, Jasmine Singleton and Alexandra Zelaya, both starters since they were freshmen.
Rojeck also explained something he took away from this season was the team’s ability to share the ball. He emphasized the team understood, “passing up a good shot for a great shot.” He explained the team’s athleticism and speed helped the team become what they are. And he thinks it’s part of the reason they made it so deep in the playoffs.
Even so, he looks for improvement. “I think one thing we are going to improve upon would be we want to shoot the ball better,” Rojeck said. “Sometimes our shooting can be inconsistent and at points in the year, I think when we struggled, we struggled at shooting from outside. So, it was a key thing to work on going into next season.”
Amoret Maxwell, Crisp and others will be back to help the Tigers shoot for a third straight title next year.
Led by the high-scoring junior duo of JaRon Holmes and Justus Jackson, the Millennium boys team was favored to take a title as well, but fell to Ironwood in the championship, 78-70.
The game was a back-and-forth battle, with the teams trading big buckets and the lead for the first half of play. The Eagles went on a scoring run late in the first half, though, willing themselves to a 42-33 lead at the break.
Where other teams have avoided dribbling into the paint, where Holmes roamed near the basket looking to block or alter every shot, the Eagles still penetrated the defense and took shots in close or kicked out to shooters for open perimeter jumpers.
The Tigers did enough to keep themselves in the game, and crept close several times in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles continued to score at the important moments. It seemed every time Millennium started to gain a little bit of momentum, the Eagles would snatch it right back.
“They feel like if we could build the lead, we’d be really hard to chase,” Ironwood coach Jordan Augustine said of his players.
“They did a good job of getting good stops and hitting big shots when they needed to,” added Millennium coach Ty Amundsen.
The Tigers had their chances to pull off a comeback. With about 40 seconds left, Jackson snuck up on Gonzalez to make a steal, passed it off to a teammate for an easy layup and the lead was trimmed to just two points. However, the Eagles made an inbounds pass, and calmly hit free throws the Tigers gave them to stop the clock. They would continue to make stops, hit the free throws and the lead just kept growing.
Haley Smilow contributed to this story.