Lincoln's boys basketball game with Jefferson tonight might be the most important game the school has played in 40 years.
Lincoln (13-4, 10-1 PIL), ranked third in the state, plays host to the fourth-ranked Democrats (12-5, 9-2) at 7:30 p.m. The Cardinals lead the Portland Interscholastic League, and a victory would put them two games ahead of Jefferson with six games remaining.
Both Lincoln and Jeff are coming off lopsided wins Tuesday. Lincoln beat Cleveland 84-44 behind 22 points from senior Neal Zumwalt, while Jefferson beat Madison 103-70. Senior Thomas Gardner scored 29 points for the Democrats.
Jefferson won the first meeting with Lincoln this season 70-67. The Democrats also won two close games over Lincoln last year.
Lincoln hasn't won the PIL title since 1964. Jefferson, which has won or shared the league crown the last four seasons, has won it 11 times since 1964. Benson and Wilson also have won the league title 11 times in that span.
Despite the recent title drought, the Cardinals have a celebrated basketball past. Lincoln won the first state title in 1919, when the University of Oregon invited eight high schools from around the state to participate in a tournament on its campus. It was the state's first high school championship.
Lincoln won all nine of its PIL games that season, including games against current members Benson, Cleveland (then Commerce), Franklin and Jefferson.
The PIL school most removed from the league title in boys basketball is Cleveland, which last won in 1962.
In tonight's other key game, Wilson (5-12, 4-7) heads to Roosevelt (8-9, 6-5). Roosevelt is in fifth place, one game behind Benson, which it plays Tuesday. The top four teams make the state playoffs.
In the Mount Hood Conference, Central Catholic's boys play at Centennial tonight. Central edged Parkrose 64-61 in overtime on Monday to move into a tie for third place, one game behind Centennial and Barlow.
Parkrose has a leg up on Cleveland as the hard-luck team of the metro area. The Broncos are just 2-6 in the Mount Hood, but five of those district losses were by seven points or less, three of them by three points. Parkrose, which is three games out of fourth place, plays host to Reynolds today.
Grant's 75-68 victory over Benson on Tuesday essentially ended the playoff drama in the PIL as Jefferson, Wilson, Grant and Lincoln all moved three games ahead of Benson in the league standings.
When combined with the boys basketball results, Grant won all four games against neighborhood rival Benson this season.
Grant, which got 33 points from senior Cicely Oaks on Tuesday, plays host to Wilson on Tuesday, then travels to Lincoln on Thursday. Oaks averaged 37.5 points in her two games against Benson this season.
Roosevelt had the comeback of the week Tuesday, rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Marshall 49-45. Senior Amy Herold says the victory gave some purpose to the team's struggles this season.
'It's nice to know we can come back from being that far down at halftime,' she says.
Herold is one of eight Roosevelt seniors who signed up for the school's 2003 Rose Festival Court, which activities director Kris Welch says is a high turnout for the school.
No. 3 Jesuit plays host to No. 2 Glencoe on Tuesday in a battle for the Metro League lead. Jesuit's lone league loss is to Glencoe, 55-48, on Jan. 15.
Central Catholic senior Kate Benz has been nominated for the McDonald's All-American girls basketball team. She'll be recognized during a pep assembly at the school today. Benz is the Rams' lone senior.
The McDonald's All-American game will be played in Cleveland on March 26.
With Madison crowned as the PIL dual meet champion, one victory ahead of Cleveland, schools are gearing up for the district meet Feb. 14-15 at Benson.
David Douglas is the favorite to win the Mount Hood Conference meet Feb. 14-15 at Gresham High. The Metro League meet will be held on the same days at Hillsboro High.
The top three finishers from each district earn berths in the state meet Feb. 20-22 at Memorial Coliseum.
The race to watch at this weekend's PIL district meet is the 200 freestyle relay. Wilson's foursome set a regular-season district record of 1 minute, 48.59 seconds in the event Jan. 21, and Cleveland and Lincoln have times that are close behind.
Regular-season results are largely useless, though, because swimmers and relay teams truly focus only on the district final. Last year, Cleveland's top district time was 1:56.34, but the Warriors won the district final in 1:46.70, upsetting Lincoln.
Lincoln is the team favorite in both the boys and girls meets.
Students organizing the district walkathon for Feb. 15 also are planning an event for Saturday. For more information, visit the Web site www.savepil.org.
Anyone wanting to aid the PIL next year should consider donating funds to the walkathon because of several matching grants from area businesses. Money raised above the $500,000 goal for the spring drive will be rolled into next year's looming funding drive.
Jefferson football coach Tim Price is staying put after all. Price, who led the Demos to the city title in 1999 and 2000, indicated last fall that he might leave the area to complete his undergraduate degree at Washington State University.
'I'm going to work on my degree here,' Price says. 'And I'm going to work on getting the program back to the level we were at in '99 and 2000.'
Jefferson missed the state playoffs last season.
Two Jefferson seniors, Joe Hollingquest and Brandon Acker, have signed letters of intent with Texas Southern University in Houston. Hollingquest, who is 6 feet and 300 pounds, is being looked at as an offensive lineman. Acker is a 6-1, 210-pound linebacker.
Jefferson's 5-6 Martin twins, Evan and Ryan, are looking at small colleges in Oregon, notably, Eastern Oregon.
Other area signees include DeMarcus White of Central Catholic, who is heading to Portland State, and Paul Wright of Franklin and Eric Snow of Wilson, who are both going to Western Oregon.