Court contenders start pressing
Jefferson, the PIL favorite, gets an early test against Lincoln
After a brief tease of games in December, the PIL boys basketball season jumps into full swing this week with several big games.
Lincoln, ranked No. 8 in the state, plays at No. 4 Jefferson on Tuesday, then hosts No. 5 Benson on Friday.
And the season just heats up from there.
'Our league is very strong this season, and you have to make each game as important as any other,' says Lincoln coach Troy Berry, whose team also will face playoff contenders Grant and Roosevelt next week. 'If you beat Jefferson or Benson but lose to Marshall, that loss counts just as much.
'Our next four or five games could determine our season,' Berry says. 'Our goal is to win all of our home games and then get a few wins on the road. That's how we'll make the state playoffs.'
Jefferson, which has won or shared the Portland Interscholastic League title the last four seasons, is favored to win it again and play in the state tourney for a sixth consecutive year.
Leading the Democrats is senior Thomas Gardner, who is the latest NCAA Division I signee from the North Portland school. He's headed for Missouri. Jefferson alums in major college basketball programs include Brandon Brooks (USC), Aaron Miles and Michael Lee (Kansas), Jon Tinnon (Idaho) and Brandon Lincoln (Oregon). Antone Jarrell is redshirting at Portland State.
Jefferson also features seniors Isaiah Allen, a 6-2 guard who transferred from Benson, and a corps of returning seniors: guard Demarcus Carney and forwards Ray Peterson, Jerae Nelson and James Mason.
The Democrats were 2-3 in December, beating No. 3 Jesuit and Churchill and losing to two out-of-state teams and No. 2 Redmond. Jefferson squandered a six-point lead to Redmond in the final minute of the third-place game at the Les Schwab Invitational.
'If we just hold on to our lead in the final minute, then we're probably still ranked No. 1,' Jefferson coach Marshall Haskins says. 'By not being ranked No. 1, maybe that will take some pressure off our guys.'
Jefferson is host to its own tournament this weekend, although it will play just once during the two-day Martin Luther King Classic on Friday and Saturday. The Demos play Mt. Zion Academy on Saturday in what will be their fourth game in five nights.
Cardinals blend youth,
Lincoln (4-3, 1-0 PIL) has a pair of standout sophomores in guard Omar Leary and center LaTravis Turner, but the key to the Cardinals is still likely to be senior Neal Zumwalt, who is in his fourth year on the varsity.
Danny Novick is the only other senior on the roster. Junior shooting guard Mark Rabinowitz has played impressively, and his outside shooting will be important as teams clamp down on Turner.
Lincoln gained experience playing in a 16-team tournament in Hawaii in December, although most of the Cardinals got sick as soon as they landed.
Benson (6-1, 0-1) won the eight-team Lakeridge tournament two weeks ago and also has a win over No. 1 Sunset, so the Techmen are a PIL title contender.
Tech, which is tied with Churchill and Jesuit for the most consecutive trips to the state tournament with six, is led by seniors Marcus Broussard, Kevyn Green, Tyler Monk, Quincy Sanders and Moses Davis. Seniors Michael Bain and Olu Majekobaje also have varsity experience.
Grant (5-1, 2-0) hasn't reached the state playoffs since 1997, but the Generals already have a key victory over Benson. They have 10 seniors on their roster, including swingman Donnie Harrison-Davis and shooting guard John Cavalli, who transferred from Beaverton.
Grant has good size. Seniors Sam Mowe, Eric Bradley, Andy Baldwin and Adam Kennedy are 6-3 or taller. Junior Aaron Dickson, who starred for the football team, is an exciting player to watch, too.
Grant also is scheduled to play in the MLK Classic.
Rough start for Roosevelt
Roosevelt (3-4, 1-0) features 6-8 senior Jeffree Williams, who has signed to play for Oregon State, and 6-10 Charles Woodruff, but the Roughriders have struggled with consistency because Williams suffered an ankle injury in the first week of the season and his return is questionable.
The Roughriders have six seniors, but only Woodruff, guard Vernon Norris and forwards Richard Scholz and Bradley Brouwer were with the team last year. Roosevelt plays host to Jefferson on Friday.
Wilson (3-5, 2-0) won just one game at the eight-team West Linn tournament two weeks ago, but its two losses were in overtime. The Trojans have six seniors, including returnees Gates Anderton, Kyle Ratoza and Rajiv Harry.
Juniors Cody Aker and Sean Setzer also play key roles for the Trojans, who are home against Roosevelt tonight and at Grant on Thursday.
Madison (1-5, 0-1) had hoped to compete for a state playoff spot, but the Senators have had trouble winning nonleague games. Senior guard Geno Quinones is the team's top scoring threat, and seniors Bobby Lester and Kyle Lowther also have two years' experience with the Senators.
Cleveland (2-4, 1-1) has a young team that will try to sneak into a playoff spot behind senior Andiel Brown and underclassmen Avery Rosen, Bobby Olive and Isiah Washington.
Franklin (3-5, 0-2), which replaced virtually its entire roster from a year ago, is on a surge, having won its last three games heading into contests with Cleveland and Madison this week. Only junior guard J.C. Alexander started last season with the Quaker varsity.
Marshall (1-7, 0-2) hasn't reached the state playoffs since 1984, the longest drought in the league. Seniors Jarrod Grahn and Jason Eisenbach and Shawn Thomas, the lone junior on the Minuteman roster, return from last season.