Court was a star of state contest
OSAA tournament's move to Eugene is popular with players
EUGENE ÑThe OSAA Class 4A boys basketball tournament returned to Eugene last week, and it may never come back to Portland. And probably no one who attended the three days of games at McArthur Court was arguing in favor of Portland, either.
South Salem beat Redmond 54-43 Saturday night before a lively crowd of 6,460, almost the exact attendance figure of the championship game last year at Memorial Coliseum.
McArthur Court, one of the top college basketball venues in the nation, simply made the game more enjoyable.
'I loved playing here,' said Redmond senior Maarty Leunen, who is headed for the University of Oregon as a scholarship player. 'It's just a great environment.'
'It's much better than playing at Memorial Coliseum,' said Jesuit junior Josh Tarver, who led the Crusaders to third place. 'It's a really fun environment. It's a lot louder.'
'The depth perception is better on this court than at Memorial Coliseum,' Sunset senior Josh Jackson said. 'It just feels more like a college game. And you get out of town for a couple days.'
The Eugene daily paper, The Register-Guard, published a four-page special section during the tournament to keep readers up-to-date on games at the Class 4A tourney and the Class 3A tourney in Corvallis.
Tournament attendance finished at a very respectable 32,318 for 11 games.
The only complaints came from the general direction of coaches, who are still committed to the idea that the double-elimination tournament should be 16 teams, not eight.
Tom Welter, the OSAA executive director, said the committee that would vote on expansion doesn't meet again until 2007.
With the tournament moving two hours south, the stage was perfectly set for a rare championship game without a Portland area representative Ñ the first such game in 25 years.
The four teams from outside Portland Ñ South Salem, South Eugene, South Medford and Redmond Ñ all brought sizable crowds. Among the four Portland area schools, only Sunset brought a similar-sized crowd for its first game.
'Schools outside of Portland are pretty used to hourlong drives or more, but that's not usually the way it is for Portland schools, so it might take two or three years for people to catch on,' Jesuit coach Gene Potter said after Saturday's 76-61 victory over South Eugene in the third-place game.
'I've been at Jesuit for 12 years and this is the first time we've spent the night outside of Portland, so this is pretty new for us, too,' he said.
Jesuit is among the teams poised to return next year based on its underclass talent. Lake Oswego and South Eugene also have numerous players coming back.
'We're losing some key seniors who played vital roles for our team, but next year does look very exciting,' Potter said. 'One thing the kids hopefully got out of this year is how hard it is to win the state title, having to win three games in a row. One off night and you're done.'
Leunen, who led Redmond to the state title last year, gave Eugene residents a preview of what they can expect to see in a dazzling performance against Jesuit on Friday night, a 69-62 victory in the semifinals.
Leunen, who is 6-9 and figures he might wear No. 10 as a Duck, frequently played as the point guard against Jesuit's full court pressure, and then played as the power forward when his team needed an inside presence in the second half.
He finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four assists Ñ all team highs. And he played all 32 minutes. All three Tarver brothers, Zach, Josh and Seth, fouled out largely in attempting to guard Leunen, who shot 20 free throws.
'He was tough to play against,' sophomore Seth Tarver said. 'Their team made every possession long, and that made playing defense very tiring.'
The 6-5 Tarver said he can see himself as a Leunen-type player in a couple years (he's not far from that now). Before that, though, is track season; he's a sprinter for the Crusaders.
Lake Oswego freshman Kevin Love said he loved playing at Mac Court, but he wouldn't speak about whether the Ducks now have a recruiting edge with him.
'I can't say anything about that,' Love said with a wry smile.
Love, an imposing player at -6-8, already appears to have the potential to go straight to the NBA. And he certainly had an NBA player's outlook after the Lakers' 68-53 loss to South Medford on Friday, a day after Jesuit scored the first 22 points against the Lakers and won 81-47.
'The referees allowed a lot more contact here than we were used to during the season,' Love said. 'I think that affected the game a lot.'