Heartbreak hits out of the gate
Lincoln's loss in the first round of the Class 4A boys state basketball tournament Wednesday night showed how important experience is to a team at the end of the season.
The No. 2-ranked Cardinals have only two seniors, and the team struggled to score at the end of a 59-52 double-overtime loss to No. 7 Southridge at Memorial Coliseum.
Lincoln, which led 46-36 late in the third quarter, scored just six points in the fourth quarter and both overtimes.
Southridge started five seniors.
Lincoln's first Portland Interscholastic League title in 39 years had Cardinal fans hoping for a state title. With six sophomores, two of them starters, Lincoln seemed capable of running off three state championships in a row.
The reality of the boys tournament, though, is that even a repeat is a rare feat. North Eugene is the last school to repeat as state champion, winning in 1976-77.
A LESSON FOR JEFF: Jefferson sophomore Mac Hopson says he learned a valuable lesson from the Democrats' first-round loss to South Medford in the state tournament.
'Your most important game of the season isn't the state final, it's the first-round game,' he says. 'If you don't win that first-round game, the title game doesn't mean anything.
'That first game is everything.'
Hopson was nearly the hero against South Medford. He hit a running jump shot with 4.2 seconds left to give the Demos a 52-50 lead. Just seconds before, Hopson's pair of free throws had made it 50-50, just after it looked as though South Medford would ice a victory.
But South Medford senior Jeremy Frantz banked in a 30-footer as the fourth-quarter buzzer sounded, abruptly ending the Democrats' season.
'It was heartbreaking,' says Hopson, one of seven underclassmen on Jefferson's 14-player tourney roster. 'I wasn't ready for that at all.'
Coach Marshall Haskins says Wednesday's 61-55 consolation win over Springfield was a boost to his team's future. 'It's tough when you lose a game like we did Tuesday and then have to come back and play the next day,' he said. 'Thomas Gardner helped out a lot there, especially with leadership. He didn't have the best game (18 points), but he carried us in a lot of areas.'
Jefferson still can win the fifth-place trophy, which would be its fifth straight piece of tourney hardware.
'Even though we lost, it's been a lot of fun already,' Hopson says. 'I want to come back next year.'