The Sports Informant

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Woodcreek takes Division II boys crown

By Scott Levin
Sports Informant Contributing Writer

For 25 minutes, it looked like the fourth time would be the charm for the Oakmont Vikings. But Woodcreek’s Nik Milani had other plans.

Milani scored 16 points, including three triples in the final four-and-a-half minutes, to give the No. 2 Woodcreek Timberwovles the win over No. 4 Oakmont, 45-44, in Saturday’s Division II boys section championship. It was the fourth time Woodcreek has beaten the Vikings this season.

Oakmont’s Tony Gill had a chance for the win with time winding down but his jumper fell short at the buzzer. The victory set off a massive on-court celebration for the Timberwolves, with players performing a “Lambeau
Leap” of sorts into the school’s fan section.

Woodcreek’s cheering group, “The Black Mob,” showed more energy than the players in the game’s early moments. The fans went toe-to-toe with Oakmont’s “O-Zone” despite their team’s ugly first half.

Woodcreek center Mike Kurtz, left, blocked seven shots in the championship.

Woodcreek fell behind 10-0, and the Timberwolves didn’t get on the scoreboard until just 35 seconds remained in the first quarter. The team mustered just 11 points in the entire half.

Coach Burnel Pemberton took the blame for the first half woes.

“We were playing not to lose,” he said. “We weren’t playing to win.”

Milani, in particular, struggled to find a rhythm.

“The first half was probably one of my worst,” he said. “Coach always tells me to pick my head up.”

Milani did just that. With Woodcreek trailing 38-30 with 5:40 left, the senior scorer came alive. He tied the game for the first time at 39 with back-to-back three-pointers, and he added one more just over a minute later to give Woodcreek its first lead, a 42-41 advantage with 2:23 left.

Oakmont’s Gill pulled his team within one after a rebound and putback with 28.4 seconds to play. After each team made one of two from the line, Woodcreek’s 6-foot-11-inch center Mike Kurtz stepped to the line with less than 10
seconds left.

With the crowd at a fevered pitch, Kurtz rimmed out the front end of a one-and-one. Oakmont pushed the ball to Gill at the top of the key, but he was swarmed by Timberwolves defenders before missing the shot.

Kurtz used his length to assert himself in the second half. He posted 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots. He knew his team would have to fight hard against Oakmont, a rival team that Woodcreek knows very well and has the size to match up with the Timberwolves.

“We just came out on top this time,” he said. “We all stepped up and took our roles.”

It was Pemberton’s first trip to the championship game as the head coach. He previously reached the game as an assistant. He was overwhelmed by the fan support, noting the school filled up four busses full of “Black Mob” members.

“You just look up there and you know they got your back,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”

He also spoke glowingly of his student-athletes.

“The biggest thing for them is they bought in,” he said. “They’re a team in every sense of the (word). The payoff was tonight. It was something special for all these boys.”

Woodcreek vs. Oakmont slideshow

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