Jeff plans a steamroll to state
- Cliff Pfenning
- Portland Tribune - Sports
• Ask any Democrat, and she'll say, 'It's our year'
After playing in the shadow of the boys at their school for years, the Jefferson girls basketball team is ready for a breakout season.
So bring on the Portland Interscholastic League: Lincoln, Wilson, Benson and Grant.
Bring on the best of the Portland area: -Lakeridge, Lake Oswego, Southridge and Jesuit.
Bring on Oregon City, the three-time defending state champion and No. 3 team in the nation, according to USA Today.
Jefferson beat Oregon City in a fall game, one of a number of impressive wins the Lady Demos have on their rŽsumŽ, although the OC win comes with the asterisk denoting that not all of the Pioneers varsity players suited up.
The spunky Demos, ranked ninth in the state, don't seem to care even though they are all 5-8 or shorter. They're a team of shooting guards ready to take on the state's best. And they're not afraid to promote themselves.
'Oregon City didn't have two of their best players on their team, but let them put those two players on the roster and bring it on,' senior Brookielle Boddie says. 'We think we're underrated.'
As cocky as they might sound, the Demos, who missed the state tournament by one game the past two seasons, are going to be a disaster for most teams they face, at least until the state playoffs. They produce full-court pressure for 32 minutes and feature two of the best guards in the league, senior Brittney Davis, who is headed for Minnesota, and sophomore Simone Jordan, who was a second-team all-PIL pick as a freshman.
In their season-opening 76-46 win over St. Mary's on Tuesday night, they forced close to 50 turnovers against a potential playoff team.
'They put a lot of pressure on you defensively,' St. Mary's coach Phillip Abraham says. 'If you can get the ball past midcourt, you have a chance, but that's the challenge Ñ getting the ball past midcourt.'
Jefferson, which lost 58-51 to Lakeridge in the third round of the state playoffs last season, hasn't won the PIL title since 1999, when the boys team won the first of four straight league titles.
'We're definitely a closer group this year,' Davis says. 'Everyone is very focused on taking one game at a time.
'It's our year.'
Lincoln, which also played in the third round of the playoffs last year, has a solid team built around 6-2 senior Hannah Oken-Berg and 5-9 sophomore forward Lauren Greif, who were both first-team all-leaguers last season.
The Cardinals crushed No. 10 Beaverton 53-38 in their opener Tuesday, leading 31-9 at halftime.
Coach Velaida Harris says her players are primed for a run at the league title and the state tournament, but they're just a lot less vocal about it.
'We have high expectations because of how well we did last year and the players we have on our team,' Harris says. 'But Jefferson is a good team, especially with Brittney, and if they get all the attention we're fine with that.
'At least for the first half of the season.'
Wilson, the league champion the past two seasons, graduated a strong class but still looks like a playoff contender, as do Grant, Benson and even Franklin, which hasn't made the state playoffs in 11 years.
Jefferson coach Milt Adams says this year's squad has elevated its play despite losing height, and it's done that by simply running the same offense and defense year after year. The defense is especially promising because the Demos' lack of height masks their quickness.
Last year they nearly won their playoff game with Lakeridge, which reached the semifinals of the state tourney. Adams says the only down side of being quick and scrappy is the length of the season.
'This kind of game can wear you out,' Adams says. 'But we're older and more mature, and I think we'll be able to sustain this type of play longer.
'But we have a long ways to go.'
Three new coaches join the league this season: Brian Weraky at Madison, Sarah Epstein at Roosevelt and Kendra Gardner at Wilson.
Here's a look at the teams:
BENSON: The Techsters return 6-foot junior Rosaunda Jackson, who was an all-league second-team pick as a sophomore, and honorable mention pick Brea Douglas, who is a spunky guard. Senior guard Tamara Stephens also should play a key role for the team. Senior guard Liddy Poindexter, who missed most of last season, also returns.
CLEVELAND: The Warriors return junior guard Katie Curtis and sophomore forward Mia Skolnick, who were both all-league honorable mention picks last year, and are hoping to compete for one of the two playoff spots not grabbed by Jefferson and Lincoln.
FRANKLIN: The Quakers return a solid frontcourt in seniors Amanda Peterson, who is 6feet and Breona Brown, who is 5-11, and junior Crystal Martin, who is 5-10. And 5-11 junior Joyce Oniah, one of the district's top high jumpers, transferred from Madison. Senior guards Jen Speakmon and Alicia Tucker return to the backcourt, providing coach Floyd Hall with optimism that the program can take a giant leap forward.
GRANT: The Generals got a key addition when senior guard Latoya Hill transferred from St. Mary's. She led the team with 19 points in its season-opening win over Gresham. Grant also features five other seniors, including post players Ericka Volker and Megan McKenzie and guards Jill Dudrey, Christine Soma and Amy Chamberlain. Coach Margaret Calvert says her players are especially focused on playing hard-nosed defense, which may help them stay competitive with both Jefferson and Lincoln.
JEFFERSON: Davis has been an all-city player since her freshman year, and other Demos are likely to push for first-team honors as well. Junior Jequala Warren, who is 5 feet, is among the most tenacious defenders in the state along with fellow juniors Daraysha Kennedy and Shadae Smith. Senior Miesha Bolin also figures prominently.
LINCOLN: Greif, who is a dominant soccer player and also a promising golfer, is rounding into basketball form, but Harris is very high on Oken-Berg, who she says had a wonderful summer and can be a significant defensive presence. Seniors Maggie Adams, Tannika Brosseau, Heidi Covington and Jordan Kokich provide experience. Kokich has the potential to be one of the league's best shooters.
MADISON: The Senators will try to rebuild again under Weraky, who teaches at Jefferson. Senior forward Liz Quintana returns, as do fellow seniors Katie Koping and Ashley Bruno.
MARSHALL: The Minutemaids lost impressive sophomore Celeste Campbell to a move to Newberg but have returners in senior Cinquaila Hamilton and junior Tinasha Holmes. Sophomore guard Mahine Lyman may lead the team as a 5-7 shooting guard who will handle the center jump to start games. Sophomore Chelsea Williams also is promising, as is the fact that the program will have three teams.
ROOSEVELT: The Roughriders return senior Candra El-Ayache and juniors Gloria Garcia and Molly Maxwell and have some size in 5-10 senior Allison Griffith to work with first-year coach Sarah Epstein.
WILSON: The Trojans lost senior forward Amy Foster, a second-team all-leaguer last year, to an ACL tear in volleyball season, so they're retooling around senior guards Kathleen Coolman and Jamie Bauman and junior guard Zabrielle Little. Three sophomores: Lauren Powers, who is 6-1, Whitney Barton, who is 5-10, and Sienna Lopez-Johnston, will play key roles for Gardner, who has led programs at Grants Pass, Central Catholic and Cleveland before moving to Wilson.