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Relieved PIL hopes schedule will rebound

The eleventh-hour contract solution tentatively reached Tuesday night between Portland Public Schools and its teachers union helped solve what could have been an extremely sticky issue: coaching at state tournaments.

Teachers voted Tuesday to strike as early as March 10, one day before the Class 4A state basketball tournament begins at Memorial Coliseum. Because coaches are part of the teachers union, Portland Interscholastic League Athletic Director Greg Ross had asked the district for some guidance on what to do in the event of a strike.

'We had the question out there, but we hadn't gotten an answer,' Ross said Wednesday. 'Now it doesn't matter.'

The district is hashing out a plan to return all 24 furloughed days to this year's school calendar. That might mean the spring schedule, for which the community has raised more than $500,000, could return to its original form, with the district track meet in late May instead of early May.

'Everything is up in the air,' Ross said. The district 'is looking at moving graduation dates back, and that could allow us to move some district events back to their original dates,' he said.

Franklin dance team coach Julie Devine said she was still wary about the contract solution. Her 27-member team has been practicing since July and has raised more than $18,000 to buy costumes and props for the Show Division of the state dance competition, March 19-22.

'I understand there's complex issues that need to be worked out,' she said. 'But it's not fair to even consider not letting our kids finish their season after all the work they've put in.'

Practices for spring sports began Monday.

CARDS ROOST: Lincoln showed off its new black uniforms Tuesday night as it officially wrapped up the PIL boys basketball title with a 90-57 victory at Franklin.

Franklin cut a 22-point first-quarter deficit to 53-41 midway through the third quarter before the Cardinals ran to an easy win. Lincoln closed its regular season with a win Wednesday over Madison, its 16th straight victory.

The top-ranked Cardinals (20-4) will enter the state tournament with the state's longest winning streak.

'It's a great feeling to be part of this team,' said senior Neal Zumwalt, who lives in the Franklin area. 'This is what I thought Lincoln could do when I chose to go there. I saw great things about to happen, and I thought I could be part of it.'

Lincoln is scheduled to play its first game in the 16-team state tourney at 8:45 p.m. on March 12. The Cardinals last won the tournament in 1957.

Coach Troy Berry says the black uniforms will work their way into the rotation with Lincoln's solid red and solid white uniforms.

'But we're going to save them for special occasions,' he says. 'They have to last a while.'

MORE HOOPS: Franklin junior point guard JC Alexander led all scorers in Tuesday's game with 27 points, showing a fearless ability to get to the basket.

Alexander said that studying Lincoln's players gave him something to help the Quakers next season.

'One thing I see in them is, they never fight with each other,' Alexander says. 'We have that, but it comes and goes. We're a young team, and camaraderie is one of our strengths.'

Alexander, Andrew Harper, Joe Yusckat and Lloyd Noble will make up the core of Franklin's returning players.

GIRLS HOOPS: Youth has been a big part of the season at St. Mary's, and the Blues have responded, winning 14 of their last 15 games. They're 19-5 overall heading into a playoff game Saturday at home.

Sisters Abby and Libby Stephens are the lone seniors on the squad, which features 5-11 junior Sarah Miller as its leading scorer.

'The girls have consistently gotten better as the season progressed,' coach Phillip Abraham says. 'All the teams we lost to at the start of the season we were able to beat at the end of the season, except Central Catholic.'