Jefferson basketball star Thomas Gardner seems to have done his homework and has come to this conclusion: Beating Benson in the regular season doesn't matter.
The Democrats, ranked No. 1 in the first Associated Press poll this season, lost to Benson in the state tournament the last two seasons. Jefferson also fell to Grants Pass in the first round last year, despite having two future Division I college players, Brandon Lincoln (Oregon) and Gardner (Missouri).
'My focus is to get the state title back to Jefferson,' says Gardner, a senior. 'We beat Benson twice during the regular season the last two years but lost to them at state. We need to be tougher than that, to play each game like it could be our last and not overlook anyone.'
Gardner, 6-4, figures to be the key to Jeff's title hopes. He will hone his skills for college, where he will be a combination point guard and shooting guard. He will focus more on rebounding this year.
'Last year, I tended to be a little lazy and just shoot from the outside, but I need to be more aggressive,' he says. 'If I rebound more, that's good for six or eight points per game. If I do more things, that will help my team, and that's what will help us win.'
The Demos' top challenger for the city title is Lincoln, ranked No. 3 in the state. The Cardinals are scheduled to play a top Italian team in the first round of a 16-team Hawaii tournament Dec. 17.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Wilson's 6-6 Jessie Shetters, headed for Oregon, has a different outlook for her season: survive.
Shetters got a taste Tuesday of what the Trojans' season could be like. Wilson lost 46-40 at home to Barlow, which started freshman center Marin Franks against her. Shetters scored 15 points but struggled with frustration. The Trojans had a 16-2 run in the third quarter to build a 33-26 lead, then gave up an 18-2 run that included eight straight turnovers.
'One thing I'm working on is my frustration level,' says Shetters, who blocked five shots. 'I'm trying to enjoy my season because it's an experience regardless of how many wins we get.'
FOOTBALL: Top-ranked Sheldon and Lake Oswego meet in the Class 4A final at noon Saturday at PGE Park. Sheldon will be trying to win the state title for Eugene schools for only the second time since 1940. Churchill tied Medford in 1977. The locals can get another good look at Sheldon quarterback Alex Brink, who is coveted by Portland State.
BASEBALL: Mike Aguilar, the PIL player of the year in baseball, says he has signed with the Kansas City Royals and will go to Arizona for spring training in February.
Aguilar was headed to Mt. Hood Community College after he fell to the 24th round in the June amateur draft, but he decided to jump to the pro ranks.
'I got caught up in the money and forgot about the baseball,' he says. 'I love to play baseball, and I've always wanted to play professionally. The Royals are giving me a chance to do that, so I feel lucky.'
YOUTH SPORTS: Portland Fire guard Stacey Thomas spoke to three dozen 5- and 6-year-olds Monday at the Salvation Army's North Williams Avenue gym, as the youngsters prepared for a new season of Biddy Ball.
The basketball program, in its seventh year, has been so successful that late sign-ups were turned away. More than 220 kids, ages 5-12, signed up to practice and play at the one gym, program director Tim Fuqua says.
Fuqua says Thomas 'told the kids to practice hard, mind their parents and pay attention in school. Those are things we focus on in our program, so it was a big success.'