Prep Watch • Split-second win over Highlanders buys Jeff a ticket to semifinals
EUGENE - They may well beat Sherwood tonight and advance to the Class 5A boys basketball finals at McArthur Court. But Jefferson's Democrats won't do it in more dramatic fashion than the way they eliminated top-ranked North Eugene Wednesday night.
Terrance Jones' driving, sprawling bank shot with 0.7 seconds left lifted No. 2-ranked Jeff to a 53-51 win over the defending champion Highlanders.
The 6-8 southpaw was nearly horizontal as he released the left-handed shot that bounced hard off the backboard and through the net, unleashing a torrent of emotion from the Democrat faithful.
'When the buzzer went off, we just went crazy,' says Jeff's other sophomore sensation, Terrance Ross. 'What a great feeling.'
North Eugene's Drew Laird had just made the second of back-to-back 3-pointers, tying the game with 24 seconds remaining. Jeff coach Marshall Haskins immediately called timeout. Ross - who finished with a game-high 20 points, including six treys - had the hot hand, so Haskins employed him as a decoy on the final play.
'We ran a misdirection,' Haskins says. 'We wanted (the Highlanders) to go with Terrance Ross. When they went to switch out on him, we reversed it back, and it was one-on-one for Terrance Jones. He's 6-8, he's going left and there's no way the (defender) is going to stop him from getting a shot off.'
When Jones got the ball from Kalonji Paschal on the left flank, the clock was ticking toward zero. He went straight to the basket, making the shot that spelled delirium for the Demos.
'I was just trying to get the shot off in time,' Jones says. 'Kalonji gave it to me with four seconds (left). I just went to the hole and tried to make it. I felt like I got fouled, but if the ref doesn't call it, it's not a foul. I'm glad it went in.'
Jones was an unlikely hero, at least after a first half he'd just as soon forget. He was 1 of 4 from the field and 0 of 3 from the free-throw line with three turnovers in nine foul-plagued minutes.
'I felt a lot of pressure,' he says. 'I don't know why - maybe first-game jitters. I just tried to play through it.'
Jones wound up with six of Jeff's nine turnovers for the game, but he was much better in the second half, making all three field-goal attempts while finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.
• The other Terrance was on fire from the start, scoring the game's first eight points on a pair of 3-pointers and a layup. The 6-5 Ross had 11 first-quarter points and made two more treys in the game's final 3:50.
'I wasn't expecting to hit that many shots,' says Ross, who was 7 of 13 from the field and 6 of 11 from 3-point range. 'I knew I was going to get my shots up, and I was feeling pretty good. My teammates got me the ball, and everything felt like it was perfect, so I kept shooting and shooting. I just got lucky tonight.'
'Ross was great,' Haskins says. 'He shot the ball and played his role for our team. But Jordan Black was our best player. He had the biggest job, though it would never show up' on the stat sheet.
Black - liberally listed at 6-3 - totaled four points, three assists and two rebounds. But the senior forward drew primary defensive responsibility for North Eugene's Brian Conklin, the 5A player of the year as a junior. The 6-8 Conklin didn't make a field goal until the third quarter and finished with a quiet 11 points and seven rebounds.
'Jordan was with Conklin the whole game - fighting him, battling, meeting him at halfcourt, chesting him,' Haskins says. 'He was giving away eight inches, but he never backed down.'
• It was the 19th win in a row for Jeff (23-1), but the Demos' second-lowest scoring game of the season.
'That's because of the way (the Highlanders) played,' Haskins says. 'They're deliberate, they're well-coached and they execute their things.'
The Highlanders (24-3) also shoot well. They fired at a .533 clip from the field, were a sensational .667 (8 of 12) from 3-point territory and made 11 of 14 free throws.
• Jefferson won despite almost unbelievable 5-of-17 inaccuracy at the line. Paschal was 4 of 10, Jones 1 of 5 and Ross 0 of 2.
'We're a good free-throw shooting team, too, especially down the stretch of games,' Haskins says. 'Kalonji made eight in a row at Roosevelt, and he misses four in the fourth quarter (against North Eugene).'
• The Democrats are an interesting mixture of youth and experience, with Jones and Ross leading a talented sophomore class.
'We started off as two teams - the sophomore team and senior team,' says Jones, who has grown 2 inches since the season started and now weighs 215 pounds. 'But we've combined and gotten some chemistry and started playing together.'
'We're all like brothers,' Ross says. 'We hang out with the seniors off the court. We're just like one big family. We're as close as we can be right now.'
• It's an emotional time for the Democrats, with Haskins - who coached Jeff to the 2000 state 4A title - retiring at season's end.
'He wants to go out on top,' Jones says. 'We're trying to make that happen. We want it real bad. I think we're going to get it.'
Haskins deflects talk about personal achievements.
'It's about our community,' he says. 'It's been a great year for our school. We retired Mel Renfro's number during football season, and the girls won state in basketball, which was unbelievable for them. It's the year of the Democrats.'
• Now the Demos must get by Sherwood at 6:15 tonight. The Bowmen have caught fire after a 6-8 start.
'You'll see a different team from us (tonight),' Haskins promises. The Bowmen 'won't be able to control the game as North Eugene did because of Conklin. (The Bowmen are) not trying to go inside. They'll run a motion offense to try to get open jump shots. We're going to run, force the tempo and make it an up-and-down game.'
The 5A championship is 6:30 p.m. Saturday (FSN), with the winner of today's 1:30 p.m. Corvallis-Thurston game advancing to meet Jeff or Sherwood.