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March 24, 2023

Oakwood High boys basketball: historic season ends in NorCals

A historic 2022-2023 season for the Oakwood High boys basketball team ended with consecutive defeats, something that never happened until the playoffs. 

First, it was a 68-45 loss to Woodside Priory in the Central Coast Section Division V championship game Feb. 25 at Santa Clara High. Three days later, the Hawks’ season came to an end when they lost to Marin Catholic 59-56 in the opening round of the CIF NorCal Division IV tournament. 

Despite the tough ending, Oakwood set a program record by reaching its first-ever CCS final and with that a berth in NorCals. 

“This is the furthest Oakwood ever came. It’s a little sad but I know we’ve been working hard and we deserved to be here,” said Marko Milentijevic, who scored a team-high 22 points in the loss to Woodside Priory. “I couldn’t ask for a better team and I’m really happy to be a part of this program.”

In the CCS final, No. 2 seed Oakwood (23-5) faced top seed Woodside Priory (24-3), which was equally talented and even had a bigger player in center in 6-foot-10 center Nes Emeneke. But it was the Panthers’ athletic and quick guards who did the most damage, routinely getting to the basket off dribble penetration and hitting shots from the outside. 

Woodside Priory connected on nine 3-pointers, including five from Clint Smith. Oakwood was banged up as starting forward Marton Safranka had to leave the game late in the third quarter due to injury and Lazor Cankovic gutted things out and played after missing the previous game due to an ankle injury. 

It didn’t help matters that the Hawks were plagued with foul trouble as Langston Watson, Luka Kokochasvili and Cankovic all picked up their fourth foul in the third quarter. That’s a hard thing for any team to overcome, let alone against a quality team in Woodside Priory.

“We had some guys that were injured and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates,” Milentijevic said. “We played as a team and fought through all of the injuries the best we could. I couldn’t be more proud to be honest. It is very hard to lose and it’s a little sad, but this is the farthest Oakwood has ever come and we deserved to be here.”

Milentijevic and Watson are sophomores and should both of them return, Oakwood will be formidable again next year. Milentijevic praised the unselfishness of his teammates and said their on-court chemistry extends to off the court as well. 

“Today it was me scoring but the next day it’ll be someone else,” he said. “It’s not all about scoring. We just want to take the ‘W’ and bring it home to Oakwood. We’re really good friends and we hang out, and that’s why I love playing with these guys.”

Mateo Juarez contributed some valuable minutes in the Oakwood’s playoff run. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

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