Loyal fans rev up Cleveland
The prep basketball season may be just a couple of weeks old, but fan sections throughout the Portland Interscholastic League, especially for boys teams, are hitting midseason form.
At Cleveland, students rushed the court after the Warriors beat Tigard 58-48 for their first win of the season. And they showed some team-specific knowledge, chanting 'first varsity points' after 6-4 senior Josh Keller, in his first year of playing basketball, made a layup late in the game.
'They get us pumped up,' says senior Mike Willis. 'And they don't leave. When we were at Beaverton (a 61-53 loss Dec. 5), everyone was still there yelling for us at the end of the game. And they talk about the games at school. That makes a big difference in getting ready to play.'
Cleveland is one of the PIL teams hoping to reach the state playoffs, thanks in part to senior transfer Ben Okello, who played at Sunset last year. Okello, a 6-foot swingman, scored 21 points in Tuesday's win.
'We think we're going to be in the playoffs,' Willis says. 'It's our hustle and our heart that's going to be the difference.'
Cleveland plays host to Parkrose today in a nonleague game.
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Lincoln senior Mark Robinowitz says he spent two hours a day practicing for the hoop season over the summer so he could move into the shooting guard position occupied by Neal Zumwalt last season.
The workouts seem to have paid off. Robinowitz, a 6-1 guard, hit nine of his 15 shots from the field and scored a team-high 24 points in Lincoln's season-opening win over Lake Oswego.
'We have a great point guard in Omar Leary, but he's a playmaker,' Robinowitz says. Leary needs someone to pass to if he's going to be really effective, he added. 'I practiced with the idea that he would be passing to me a lot.'
Thanks to Robinowitz's hot hand, Lincoln's student section constantly made noise during the game and caused school administrators to ask for calmer, less raucous chants on a number of occasions. Lake Oswego's students barely made any noise.
Zumwalt, incidentally, is averaging 8.2 points per game as one of the first players off the bench at Northeastern (Colo.) Junior College. He's shooting 43 percent from 3-point territory.
Earl Clark, the Benson assistant who was a prime candidate to succeed Don Emry as head coach earlier this year, is happily learning some coaching skills from Troy Berry, Benson's new coach. But Clark says he's ready to become a head coach, too.
'I'm not in a hurry to leave,' says Clark, who is finishing work on a teaching certificate. 'But I'd be a head coach tomorrow if the right job opened up.'
Like Berry, Clark also played at Benson and was on the 1995 team that finished third in the state tournament and featured Berry as an assistant coach.
'Troy's been a coach for me for much of my life, so I'm still learning from him,' Clark says. 'But I learned most of what I know from Don Emry, so I'm still a pretty loyal guy to his way of coaching.'
Benson plays host to Lake Oswego today.
Tigard senior Scott Bonnono, who quarterbacked the football team to the Class 4A state title Saturday, joined the Tigers basketball team Tuesday, as did several other football players. They're working to get into basketball shape, which is more aerobic in nature than football.
'It's tough right now because I'm pretty rusty,' Bonnono says. 'But it'll come. We have the guys to be able to make the playoffs, so that's our top priority.'
Beaverton plays host to Tigard today.
David Douglas is headed for the Clackamas tournament today and Saturday already having won two tournaments, its own and a tourney at Grant. But coach Wayne Snoderly sees other schools as the early-season favorites to win the Mount Hood Conference district title.
'Gresham and Centennial are going to be awfully tough this season,' Snoderly says. 'But we're starting to look like we'll be a pretty tough team, too.'
The Scots have a defending state champion in their lineup, senior Kyle Wellman at 135 pounds Ñ who won a state title while living in New Mexico last year.
Snoderly also expects promising results from a number of the 60 wrestlers in his program, namely seniors Sheldon Monson (112), Mat Wakamatsu (125), Jared Parker (140), Stephen Olson (152) and Jon Teague (275), who was the district's defensive player of the year during football season. Juniors Brian Singhi (119) and Dan Harvey (215) also figure to do well.
The Scots also have a pair of highly ranked girls wrestlers: Na'Tasha Umemoto, a junior, who is ranked No. 1 among girls nationally at 122 pounds, and senior Shawn Swartzlender, who is No. 2 at 152 pounds. Swartzlender, a transfer from Burns, may compete this weekend in the Clackamas tournament.
'They're both pretty good wrestlers,' Snoderly says. 'They practice with the boys, and they go hard. We expect them to do the same things the boys do, and they do.'
Cleveland's baseball program is selling Christmas trees at the school's football stadium. É Ray Livingston, the former Barlow and University of Oregon track and field standout, has scheduled a conditioning and strength camp for spring athletes beginning Jan. 6, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. at Barlow High in Gresham. The camp runs Tuesday and Thursday thereafter for six weeks. For more information, call 503-674-5612.