Oregon City might be more beatable this season, but the defending state champion in girls basketball is heading to the state tournament with the same mentality as previous Pioneer teams.
'We pretty much just focus on what we do,' says senior Jessie Richter, who scored 19 points in Oregon City's 59-46 victory over Jesuit on Saturday night. 'We know that when we play well, there's no one that can beat us.
'We've heard that other teams think they can beat us, but it's a different thing when you get out on the court.'
The OSAA Class 4A state tournament begins Thursday at the Chiles Center. Oregon City plays Central Catholic in the quarterfinals at 3:15 p.m. The opener is Jefferson versus Sheldon at 1:30 p.m.
Pendleton plays Lakeridge at 6:30 p.m., and Lake Oswego plays Southridge in the nightcap at 8:15 p.m. The tournament continues through Saturday night.
Oregon City has lost just once this season to an Oregon team, 46-44 to Lake Oswego on Jan. 27. The Pioneers won their next eight games by at least 38 points each, including wins over four teams that reached the state playoffs.
On Saturday, Oregon City was headed for another large win Ñ leading the Crusaders -31-15 at halftime. But Jesuit, which lost to the Pios in the state title game last season, rallied to make the OC win less impressive.
And Jesuit might have won had it not shot about 30 percent at the free-throw line on 29 attempts.
'It might have been the pressure of the game,' Jesuit coach Kathy Adelman Naro says. 'We don't normally shoot that poorly on free throws. If you want to beat Oregon City, you have to do a lot of things right, including shoot free throws well.'
Adelman Naro looks at Oregon City, which won the title game last year 77-49, as beatable.
'I think Southridge can beat them,' she says of the Metro League champions. 'But I also think Oregon City can beat Southridge.'
Oregon City's projected vulnerability has at least drawn big crowds. The school's gym was packed Saturday, and the Pioneers played before large crowds against Lake Oswego and Lakeridge, too.
'We've played some big games lately, and there's been some big crowds,' Richter says. 'It's nice to have so much support behind us.'
Jesuit's 66-52 victory over Sunset on Saturday moved the Crusaders out of a potential playoff meeting with Portland Interscholastic League champion Jefferson, but Jesuit's players were less concerned with that than they were with simply winning.
'We want to go into the playoffs with as much confidence as possible,' junior guard Josh Tarver says. 'We knew that losing would put us in line to play Jefferson, but we just wanted to win because it's the time for teams to win. We feel we're ready for the playoffs.'
Jesuit, which reached the state semifinals last season, plays host to North Medford on Saturday. Sunset plays host to Tualatin, with the winner likely having to play at Jefferson on Saturday.
The most exciting team in the metro area is easily the Barlow Bruins, who won the Mount Hood Conference with an undefeated regular season. The Bruins, though, went to overtime to win their final three games over Central Catholic, David Douglas and Centennial, the conference's other three state playoff teams.
Barlow's road to the state tourney is among the most difficult for a league champion. The Bruins, who play Wednesday against the winner of Monday's Tigard-at-Mountain View game, would face either Benson or Lake Oswego in the third round on Saturday.
With Jesuit tying Sunset for first in the Metro, thanks in part to Jesuit's loss to Beaverton last week, the state playoffs look highly unpredictable. Beaverton didn't qualify for the postseason.
Sunset coach Ken Harris says the playoffs appear to be less predictable than in previous years because the top teams haven't been that dominating and because, even though several teams went through their leagues unbeaten, they were significantly challenged.
'The big difference in past years is you run into the top teams quicker,' Harris says. 'And on their home court. In past years, when you played a league champion, it was on a neutral court at the state tournament.'
Lights still coming
The lighting project at Cleveland, Marshall and Roosevelt still appears to be in the works, although money remains an issue. PIL Athletic Director Greg Ross says $150,000 is needed for completion.
The project was slated to cost $400,000 in November 2001, but that number dropped, mostly because of donations of materials and labor. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for example, plans to donate labor to install the lights at the three schools.
The IBEW's donation was offered to the school district even before there was an official plan, says Joe Esmonde, the IBEW's business representative. He offered to donate labor to install lights at Roosevelt in 2000, he says. In the past three years, the other schools were added.
'We look at this as a way to support the community,' says Esmonde, who had children attend Wilson and Lincoln. 'And it's a way to show that electrical work is a valuable profession.'
Jefferson's girls basketball game against Sheldon will be broadcast live by the Portland Public Schools radio station, KBPS (1450 AM). Student broadcasters Michael Bodmer of Lincoln and Steel Brooks of Grant will handle the broadcasting duties. É Hedy Jackson, the boys and girls tennis coach at Catlin Gabel, has been named the Northwest regional coach of the year for 2003 and is in the running for national coach of the year, which is administered by the National Federation of High School Coaches Associations. Catlin Gabel is the two-time defending state champion at Class 3A. An Oregonian hasn't been the national coach of the year in any sport the past three years.