Prep Watch • 'Clicking' with talent, Mario Gill-led Trojans get rare win at Benson
by: L.E. BASKOW, Central Catholic’s Courtney Flynn takes a hard foul while driving past Hood River Valley’s Jody Kunigel (left) and Audrey Mallon (right). The Rams won 59-35.

Is there a PIL 6A team that can challenge the No. 2-ranked Grant boys?

The Wilson Trojans are plugging away, hoping to be the answer to that question. And they are gaining confidence.

'I see us taking it,' Wilson standout Mario Gill says, of the league title. 'No disrespect to Grant. We're playing a lot harder than last year. We're clicking at the right time.'

The Trojans are tied with Grant at 2-0 going into tonight's home game against Franklin. The first of three Grant-Wilson games (two at Wilson) is set for Jan. 25 at Grant.

Gill, a 6-1 guard, scored a game-high 22 points in Tuesday's 64-43 victory at Benson.

'This is a very big win,' he says. 'I'd never won here, my whole four years.'

Wilson has other components of a state-playoff team, including guards Gage Aker, a senior, and Trevor Ritchie, a sophomore, and 6-7 post Darryl Finley, who runs the court well.

But when all else fails, and often even if it doesn't, Gill makes the Trojans go.

'He's just a fireball,' coach Scott Aker says. 'On the court, he has so much energy and passion.'

Gill says he's most likely going to Portland State or Weber State after this season, and he pictures himself at point guard. Aker says Gill could be effective at a wing position. 'Defensively, he can get into you, and he has good range on his jump shot.'

Gill and Gage Aker, the coach's son, were no better than reserves when they played on the same grade-school team. 'But they really worked on their games, and now they're both likely to play in college somewhere,' Scott Aker says.

• Franklin knocked off shorthanded Benson 49-46 last week, and Nick Kunis, a 6-3 junior post, has totaled 40 points in the last two games for the Quakers.

• Year two of David Adelman's coaching career got off on the wrong foot and has yet to get much better. At the start of the season, Adelman tore his Achilles tendon. And since then, he's felt more pain -almost every time he looks at the scoreboard. The Cardinals are 1-11 going into tonight's game at Grant.

Still, the Cards (0-2 in PIL 6A) are only one game out of a playoff berth. Franklin holds down the third spot at 1-1, with Benson 0-2 (not counting a suspended game at Grant in which the Techmen trailed by 18 points at halftime). Benson plays at Lincoln tonight.

'That third seed could be up for grabs. We could make the postseason with one of the worst records in the state,' Adelman says, managing a chuckle.

Lincoln has had some good games, just not many good full games. 'It kind of feels more like we're .500,' Adelman says. 'But we just can't keep it together for the whole 32 minutes, and we've lost some crazy ways. We missed nine free throws in the fourth quarter one game. We were up seven versus Thurston and lost by seven. We don't have the ballhandlers we did last year. Even our practices have been inconsistent; they've mirrored our games.'

Point guard Jordan Polk -the speedy receiver who will play football for the Washington Huskies -has played well but missed some time; he hurt his shoulder last week. 'I wasn't even expecting him to turn out this year,' a grateful Adelman says.

The most productive player probably has been another senior, 6-5 Harry Berendsen, who transferred this school year from Michigan. He scored 28 points versus Roosevelt. 'He's our only guy with size and strength to go with some skills,' Adelman says.

• Central Catholic's girls can all but clinch another Mount Hood Conference title with a win tonight at Reynolds. The Rams (12-3, 8-0 MHC) beat the Raiders (13-3, 7-1) 52-40 on Dec. 4. If the teams are tied at the end of the regular season, a one-game playoff would determine state playoff seeding.

The Rams are ranked first and second in two Class A polls. 'They are really athletic, have good size, good shooting and play so well together,' says Phil Hukari, coach at Hood River, which lost to Central 59-35 on Tuesday.

Kate Lanz, a 5-10 junior who was MHC player of the year last season, and 5-10 senior Audrey Miller, who plans to play for Pepperdine, led the way but got plenty of help. 'The reason our team has been so strong this year is that everybody steps up,' coach Sandy Dickerson says. 'I've been really impressed with our chemistry and work ethic.'

Seniors Katy Wade, 6-2, and Courtney Flynn, 6-1, provide size and 'work so well together,' Dickerson says. 'Courtney is a strong force in the middle, and Katy is more of a finesse player.' Wade has committed to Portland State, while Flynn is headed to the team at William and Mary.

'They just have so many weapons,' Hukari says of the Rams.

• Cleveland will add five people to its Athletic Hall of Fame at the Feb. 22 boys basketball game at home against Marshall. The inductees are Criss Burgess, dance coach; Jim Clair, class of 1968, baseball and basketball; Lrona Tramblay Henry, '58, swimming; Dennis Maloney, '60, football and track and field; and Judith Martin Morgan, '58, swimming.

Jesse Severson contributed to this report.

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