A year after the Roosevelt boys made some rare noise in Portland Interscholastic League boys basketball, the Roughriders are back in the thick of the standings.
Roosevelt, which cruised past Parkrose 64-46 Tuesday night, is 7-1 overall and 2-0 in league play heading into a Tuesday night game at home against Wilson. The 'Riders play at Benson on Thursday.
'We're looking at being a playoff team,' senior Andre Ferguson says. 'We think we can do at least that much this year.'
Roosevelt hasn't been to the state playoffs since 1985.
Ferguson and fellow seniors Jerrell Allen and Robert Malone are the keys to the Roosevelt attack, which features only one regular player taller than 6-2. Ferguson is 6-3. At times last year, the Roughriders had two 6-9 players who could dominate the inside game, and they used that strength to beat Jefferson.
But the full team was rarely together after that win, and the Roughriders faded in the stretch run and missed the playoffs.
This year, Roosevelt relies on its quickness.
'Every team we play has taller guys on it, and I work pretty hard to front them,' says Ferguson, who was an honorable mention all-league pick along with Allen and Malone last year. 'I have to count on my teammates to be quick and come around from behind and steal the ball. So far, that's working pretty well.'
Allen prepared for the season by getting into the Roosevelt gym as often as he could in summer and fall to work on his 3-point shot.
'I'd try to put up 1,000 3-pointers when I got in,' he says. 'The coaches kept track.'
Malone played in the Portland Elite club program and is hoping to wind up in a Division I college program.
'We're looking at Benson as a team we can beat and get into the playoffs,' Malone says. 'We think we have the kind of quickness that other teams won't be able to handle. That's going to carry us.'
Lincoln opened the season at No. 3 in the state, but Grant is the highest-rated PIL team at No. 4 in the most recent state poll.
The Generals beat Barlow 63-52 in the championship game of the eight-team Barlow tournament Tuesday to improve to 7-0, 2-0 PIL. Grant has won its seven games by an average of 13 points. Only two of its wins have been by fewer than 11 points.
'No. 4 is nice, but we're trying to get to No. 1,' says second-year coach Tony Broadous, the PIL coach of the year the last two seasons. 'Last year, we worked hard and never got into the top 10, so it's nice to be noticed this year.'
Grant will get a significant test Jan. 9, when it meets Westchester, Calif., on the first day of the MLK Invitational at Jefferson. Westchester, from Los Angeles, is one of the top teams in the United States, according to numerous prep magazines and polls.
Broadous hopes to have point guard Dominic Waters at 100 percent for the Westchester game. Waters is still recovering from a Dec. 15 appendectomy.