The Jefferson Democrats figured to be a state title contender in boys basketball before the season began, and nothing the youthful team has done in the past seven weeks has changed those expectations.
Jefferson ran past Roosevelt 85-49 on Thursday and then rallied past Grant 66-59 on Friday to improve to 7-0 in the Portland Interscholastic League and 12-1 overall entering a pair of key games this week.
Jeff plays at defending PIL champion Lincoln on Tuesday and at home against Benson on Friday. They're hoping to keep their momentum as the first half of the PIL season comes to a close.
'This was really our first big game, our first big test,' Jeff coach Marshall Haskins said of the Grant game. 'Everyone was nervous, but they pulled through. They showed me they're resilient.'
'This is a different Jefferson team, one without one guy who is the go-to guy, so (the Grant game) was a big test for us,' said Jefferson senior Cedric Burton, who had a team-high 17 points in the game'
After the game, Haskins revved up the Demos with a motivational speech that closed with a Howard Dean-like 'Are you with me?' He stopped short of screeching 'Yeah!'
Jefferson has a two-game lead over the rest of the league entering the week.
If Jefferson beats Lincoln tonight, the Cardinals will have three league losses, giving Wilson, Franklin, Roosevelt, Cleveland and even Madison hope for reaching the state playoffs.
The race for the PIL title got significantly more interesting when Grant upset Jefferson 56-53 on Friday. Senior Toya Hill led the Generals with 26 points. Jefferson won the first meeting between the teams, 68-61, on Dec. 10.
The loss dropped Jefferson (8-1 PIL) into a tie with Lincoln for the league lead, and those teams meet today at Jefferson. Grant (7-2) is tied with Franklin for second and plays the Quakers on Feb. 3.
Former Jefferson and Portland State basketball player Ime Udoka reached the NBA recently, signing a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 14. He replaced Kobe Bryant, who was out with a sprained shoulder. Bryant came off the injured list Sunday night, so Udoka returned to the Charleston Lowgators of the National Basketball Developmental League. When he was in the NBA, Udoka was the league's only player with a last name that started with a U.